Keller Award Winners
2007: Ali Azizi
2008: Tamara Serwer Caldas
2009: Joshua Segall
2010: Mark Parkinson
2011: Ryan Mulholland
2012: Captain Josh Swartsel
2013: Senator Randy Head
2014: Steve E. Grubbs
2015: J. Austen Irrobali
2016: Sal Tinajero
2017: Rep. Terri Sewell
2018: Lanhee J. Chen
2019: Rex G. Buffington, III
Harold Carl Keller was a legend in the speech and debate community, and in particular, for his role in building and formalizing participation in Congressional Debate across the country and the globe.
Born May 25, 1940, in Indianapolis, Indiana, Mr. Keller graduated from Lancaster High School, received a Bachelor of Science degree and later earned his Master's in Science degree from Indiana State University in Terra Haute, Indiana.
Mr. Keller was longtime speech and debate coach at Davenport West High School in Iowa, and an active leader of the National Speech & Debate Association, where he had been district chair, national board member, and served as the National Clerk of Congress for a quarter-century until he stepped down in 2003, earning him the moniker "Mr. Congress." In 1990, he was inducted in to the National Forensic League's Hall of Fame.
From 2003-2007, Mr. Keller consulted for the National Speech & Debate Association, the International Debate Education Association, and United States Department of State in a variety of international exchange programs to promote free and open discourse around the world.
In 2006, the United States Senate established the Harold Keller Public Service Leadership Award (full text PDF link) to commemorate the legacy this incredible educator and human being left with generations of young people through his own public service through leading the annual National Congress contest. Past honorees of the Keller Award are listed below.
Through his years directing the National Congress, and long afterward, Mr. Keller was a constant fixture at the tournament, striking up meaningful conversations with every student and coach he met, affirming their efforts. He would offer sage wisdom during ceremonial assemblies and banquets, reminding students to abide by Roman orator Quintilian's advice of being "all good person speaking well." Mr. Keller believed in upholding utmost ethics in life and in competition, inspiring him to propose a Code of Honor and oath, adopted by the National Speech & Debate Association's Board of Directors in 2007: "As a member of the National Speech & Debate Association, I pledge to uphold the highest standards of integrity, humility, respect, leadership and service in the pursuit of excellence."
On January 12, 2014, Mr. Keller passed from this earth in Lancaster, Ohio. As the late Billy Tate, longtime President of the National Speech & Debate Association Board of Directors used to say, "No person has done more to promote and improve Congress as an event than Harold Keller." The National Speech & Debate Association established the Harold C. Keller fund in his memory.