In 2026, Richmond will play host to one of the largest academic events in the country. It was announced on Monday that Richmond was selected as the region to host the 2026 National Speech and Debate Tournament, an event expected to attract 10,000 student contestants and visitors to the area when it is held June 14-19 in 2026.
Richmond Region Tourism and The Richmond Forum, whose Speech and Debate Initiative (RFSDI) has helped grow interest and participation in speech and debate competitions, have been working for more than three years to bring the competition to Richmond. (Disclosure: Steve Humble, chief content officer at VPM, which owns Style Weekly, is on the Richmond Forum board of directors.)
“There is no better fit than partnering with the Richmond Forum’s Speech and Debate initiative (RFSDI) to help usher in the next generation of leaders at the 2026 national tournament, “ said Scott Wunn, executive director of the National Speech and Debate Association, in a press release. “By partnering with the Richmond Forum, we can shape a brighter future for our students, our communities, and our nation while creating a tremendous educational opportunity for our programs.”
The release notes that the Forum’s initiative has engaged more than 1,000 area students in speech and debate over the past five years, growing from nine teams to 28 teams with 43 coaches.
“The [RFSDI] has been cultivating new generations of students and teacher-coaches who are demonstrating tremendous interest in the critical thinking and communication skills speech and debate fosters. Attracting this prestigious tournament to Richmond is a crowning achievement for all of us,” said Heather Mullins Crislip, executive director of the Richmond Forum, in the release. She added that they look forward to hosting teams from throughout America, especially during a milestone year for the nation, the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Due to this milestone and the region celebrating the country’s birthday, the National Speech and Debate tournament will feature a United States Semiquincentennial theme.
“There is no debating that landing this tournament is a major accomplishment for the Richmond region,” said Jack Berry, president and CEO of Richmond Region Tourism. “It will attract thousands of visitors at a time when we will be showcasing the richness of our history and diversity of our culture.”
The event will include 7,000 competitors and will take place in 750 rooms across six schools in the Richmond region. The release notes that several thousand local volunteers will be needed to ensure the National Tournament runs smoothly. Interested community members can sign up to volunteer and stay abreast of developments by visiting www.speechanddebate.org/nationals2026, according to the release.