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Rex Buffington receives the Harold Keller Public Service Leadership Award at the National Speech and Debate Association’s (NSDA) National Tournament in Dallas, Texas, on June 21, 2019.

Established by the Stennis Center for Public Service, the Harold Keller Public Service Leadership Award honors the long-time leader of National Student Congress, Harold C. Keller, a speech and debate coach from Davenport, Iowa. The award, which pays tribute to Keller’s long-time support of National Student Congress, recognizes an individual who has successfully applied lessons learned through National Student Congress to become an effective leader in public service. This year’s recipient, Rex Buffington, received the Harold Keller Public Service Leadership Award at the National Speech and Debate Association’s (NSDA) National Tournament in Dallas, Texas, on June 21, 2019.

Rex Buffington is the former Executive Director of the Stennis Center for Public Service. Under his leadership, the Stennis Center established programs that provided leadership development for senior staff on Capitol Hill; built relationships between civilian and military leaders; worked to attract young people to public service careers, and; conducted programs that aimed to bring more women in public service. Buffington began his career as a reporter at The Commercial Appeal, in Memphis, Tennessee, and served on the staff of former United States Senator John C. Stennis for almost 12 years before his appointment as the founding Executive Director of the Stennis Center. In retirement, he continues to serve part-time as a member of the Stennis Center team.

Buffington has worked with the NSDA for more than 25 years during the Stennis Center’s partnership with NSDA on National Student Congress. Further, he worked closely with Harold Keller, the famed Davenport, Iowa, high school debate coach, and long-time NSDA Board Member, to build National Student Congress as a premier event at NSDA’s National Tournament. Under this partnership, more than 10,000 students from across the United States have participated in the National Student Congress, gaining essential leadership skills many now use to serve their communities, states, and the nation.