Monash Association of Debaters

Jake Clifton

 In 2001, at the end of the year, a young Jake Clifton received a letter from MAD congratulating him on his DAV success, and inviting him to join MAD upon going to Monash. Jake, excited that MAD had singled him out personally, enthusiastically signed up at O-week and was an active member in his first few months. However, it was only later that Jake would find out that the letter had in fact been sent to most Year 12 DAV students – but by then, Jake was already a deeply committed MADdie.

It’s this commitment and unswerving dedication to MAD that I think makes a Life Member, and is the core reason why Jake is an exceptionally deserving candidate. There are usually two categories that we talk about when we discuss Life Members – debating and adjudication success, and service to the club, but I want to talk about a third as well, namely commitment to the club.

Debating and Adjudication

Jake is the archetype of the MAD champion, and epitomises exactly what MAD does best. When Jake started, he wasn’t the best speaker straight away – he started off, like many other MAD greats in a Monash 5 teams at Australs. Crucially, however, he worked hard – he spent years practicing, learning and perfecting his skills, and improving himself. Debating as an activity, and MAD as a club inspired him to consistently strive to be better, and he eventually became one of the top debaters of his generation.

Jake made the Quarter-Finals of Easters, and was ranked 2nd Best Speaker in 2005. At Australs, Jake was part of a team that won the tournament undefeated in 2006. In fact, along with Tom and Roland, he took out ADAM and Australs, winning 18 straight IV level debates, including 4 against one of the best Melbourne 1 teams ever. He was the Best Speaker at ADAM, and a top 10 speaker at Australs as well. In short he was part of a team that dominated the tournament and were deserving winners.

Jake was also an excellent BP speaker, winning the Alberta Mini and Melbourne Mini. At Worlds, Jake, again with Tom, was a semi-finalist in 2005, and was very unlucky not to have gone further. I still remember that debate, and still remember how proud the whole club was of their success – and how certain we were that they’d gone through. It’s telling that the two teams that knocked Jake out of a Worlds semi would both go on to win Worlds – one in 2005 and the other the next year in Dublin.

As an adjudicator, Jake was widely respected across the debating community. Jake adjudicated two Easters Grand Finals, and was the CA of ADAM, virtually on the back of the high esteem that he was held in. At Australs in 2007 he was an almost automatic selection to judge the Grand Final. However, his greatest adjudication achievement was no doubt being the Chief Adjudicator of Monash’s Australs. Aside from leading an excellent team, having Jake as the person in charge of adjudication did a substantial amount to increase the credibility and strength of the Australs bid, and showed that we were serious in providing high quality adjudication. A big part of the success of the tournament was due to Jake – the quality and fairness of the debates, the quality of the adjudication pool and the commitment to providing everyone with top judges was due to Jake’s commitment to the tournament and his dedication in seeking out quality adjudicators. Despite only being able to adjudicate as far as the Quarters, I am sure Jake would have been more than happy with the fact that he was conflicted out of both Semis and the Grand Final (and probably would have wanted it that way).

Service to the club

Jake’s record of service to the club is unparalleled. He served on four executives, and was a valued and significant member on all of them. He wasn’t just there to make up numbers – he would make sure his portfolio was done and would always be willing to help others who needed a hand. As Externals Officer, he organised one of the then largest contingents to Easters, and certainly one of the most successful. He also organised the largest contingent for an overseas Australs that we’d had till then. As President, Jake oversaw the club during a difficult time of generational change, and smoothed the transition from one group to the next. It was under his leadership that we had one of the largest public debates ever, and one of the most successful Easters ever.

Jake is also almost single-handedly responsible for the success that is MAD’s participation in the Hong Kong Parliamentary Debate Society’s annual Workshops. In 2005 Jake was invited to train at the first Workshop with other trainers from across Asia. It was because of Jake’s excellence and the relationships that he built that MAD was invited back the year after with a bigger contingent than before, and indeed every year it’s gotten larger. MAD’s contingent growing from just Jake in 2005 to nine people this year in 2009 has been due to the hard work of a number of people, but none more so than Jake, without whom our involvement wouldn’t even exist. Indeed when I went this year I still had Tim Parker and others asking about how Jake was, and whether he was ever going to come back to Hong Kong.

Commitment to the club

Being a life member, however, is more than just debating and executive service. It’s about a commitment to the club that underpins both of these things and helps to explain why Jake achieved the success that he did. It’s not about the big things – it’s really about the little things.

Jake was someone who consistently made sure he debated with younger speakers at Freehills and Sorensen to ensure that people weren’t left out. Jake was someone who did all the Easters he was entitled to – he worked with his novice teammates and dedicated most of his time to ensuring that they were looked after. Jake genuinely cared about seeing his teammates improve, and he worked hard to see it happen. This was particularly important at a time when the club was losing a lot of talented older speakers all at once and a new generation was coming through. The effect of these contributions to the club is obvious to see – the four speakers that made the Worlds Grand Final in the two years after he finished all debated with Jake at either an internal competition or their first Easters.

Jake was someone who would attend every MAD meeting and Monday night if he could, Jake was someone who, when running Australs, always had an eye on how the MAD teams were fairing, no matter how busy things got. Even now when he has moved on he is always happy to come and debate or adjudicate practice debates for teams going to Worlds or Australs because he believes in MAD.

Jake was someone who, along with Tom and Roland, inspired MADdies to form the Potato Council and come up with the chants in New Zealand – something that has become a regular tradition for MAD teams in the Australs Grand Final.

Jake was someone who would sing the MAD song the loudest and the proudest, even (in fact especially) since he has left the club.

Jake is someone who believed very deeply in the ideals and the ethos of MAD – working hard to improve yourself, debating well and debating fairly, and partying hard. Say what you will about Jake – and I usually do – but Jake is exactly the kind of person that the success of this club is built around. Being a life member is more than achievements, it is about someone who will be a part of the club for a long time, and for whom the club will be a big part of who they are – someone who truly will be a member for life, and I can think of nobody who fits that description more than Jake. I strongly commend his name for life membership.

  • Nominated by Ravi Dutta
    September 2009