Why Speech and Debate Matters: Part 4
Written by Rachel Leong, Class of 2016
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said,
“Speech is power, speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.”
I was terrified to take Speech and Debate. My heart leapt out of my chest, my knees would shake, and my palms would perspire every time I thought about it. A required class that involved arguing competitively? No thank you. Politics? That scares me. Waltzing around in suits in Hawai’i humidity? Hello, stress sweat.
However, once I got past my first tournament in Junior Varsity (JV) Policy discussing economic engagement with Cuba and medical tourism, I realized professional arguing was not as terrifying as I thought it would be. A few laughs here and there from not understanding political terms and pretending like I did made the process not only educational, but lighthearted and fun. From that memorable first round saying, “It’s for the children” multiple times in my concluding speech, I grew and was massively pushed out of my comfort zone all the way to the state tournament in JV Policy in my sophomore year of high school. After one year in debate, I tried my hand at the speech side of the forensics world and fell in love.
I competed in Dramatic Interpretation (DI), Humorous Interpretation (HI), Duo Interpretation (DUO), and Original Oratory (OO). These categories allowed me to play writer, director, choreographer, and actress all in one, with all the creative liberties I could dream of. Speeches ranged from acting out “Bridge to Terabithia” (DUO), to a consolidated version of my senior thesis (OO), to my Nationally-successful piece discussing “Society’s Lack of Authenticity and Fear of Vulnerability” (OO). I felt like I could convey whatever message I wanted to, in the exact way I wanted to. I could curate a piece that was mine.
Needless to say, I was completely hooked for my last two years in high school.
When I became immersed in speech, my aim was to put my entire heart into every single tournament and get that trophy. As the tournaments progressed, I was met with a different reason than success. My coach discussed with me how I was representing not just the school, but the morals and values of a Christian in a secular league. The way I was competing was not the traditional way to succeed in the NSDA, but regardless, I was doing well. I chose to refine skill, content, and wit rather than falling prey to the flash, crass, and cliché that was so easy to win with. I refrained from using any profanity or crude language in a category that thrives on that for success. This shocked multitudes of people who knew that Humorous Interpretation was not a category for many who proclaimed to be Christians. And through God’s will, I won the State title and competed in Nationals with a completely clean piece. Getting that far did not make logical sense. This was when I knew I was a part of something that was out of my control. I began to understand that my skills and abilities brought me to a platform where my role was larger than just little ole’ me.
While my knees still shook and my palms still sweat, I knew that the Lord would speak through however I performed. Terror became a trust in an understanding that this was what I was supposed to say, to this audience, at this moment. Junior year, I won 1st place in Humorous Interpretation, qualified for Nationals and 4th in Dramatic Interpretation. My senior year, I won 2nd in Original Oratory, qualified for Nationals, 3rd in Duo Interpretation and the District Student of the Year Award. While these titles can seem impressive, from the beginning I had learned that nothing I achieved was due to my own abilities. God was using my achievements as a platform for His light and His love.
"I began to understand that my skills and abilities brought me to a platform where my role was larger than just little ole’ me."
It was all for one goal. To embody, speak, and live out the values of Jesus in an otherwise obsessive, achievement-driven world—to speak truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Specifically, in Original Oratory, I found the Lord using me as a vessel for His truth. I worked hard, yes, but I knew that I had to do what He was leading me to do. I made it to the Top 60 in the nation in Oratory. Why? I wholeheartedly believe it is because the people in each of my rounds, leading up to that final room, needed to hear the words the Lord spoke through my mouth.
Fast forward to being a college sophomore, and I am no longer competing in Speech and Debate. Currently I am studying Organizational Communication, minoring in Sociology, and working as an Educational Programs Intern in the Intercultural Life Department, advocating for justice in faith, specifically in areas of racial reconciliation. I invested myself in these areas after seeing the empowerment of young leaders in the NSDA. These were world changers, 16- and 17- year olds, who were starting organizations advocating for women of color, those differently-abled, women in STEM fields, men not fitting the societal masculine mold, the hurt, the oppressed, the poor, the people God calls Christians to intentionally work on loving well. I garnered a heart for the marginalized and oppressed after the Lord “broke my heart for what broke His,” to speak out and remind followers of Christ that loving others does not mean avoidance of the hard and uncomfortable.
"I wholeheartedly believe it is because the people in each of my rounds,
leading up to that final room, needed to hear the words
the Lord spoke through my mouth."
On a daily basis, I use the skills I learned during my time in speech and debate for almost everything. Every speech I give with ease, every controversial conversation I think through cautiously and have the confidence to discuss it came from the long nights of drilling facts into my head, memorization and after-school meetings. Debate gave me the mindset and critical thinking to thoroughly examine life issues, instead of blindly believing everything I hear. Speech gave me a voice to speak out and stand for what I believe in. I would not, I repeat, would not be in this position if I did not have the confidence and tools Speech and Debate gave me.
Just like the characters in The Wizard of Oz, I feel like I gained a heart, brain, courage, and a home. Speech and Debate was by far one of my most favorite memories in high school, and equipped me best for taking on the world.
I will always be an advocate for the values and experience that speech and debate cultivates in students, and I believe that every high schooler will reap more than they realize. Everything that I have accomplished, every plaque, every trophy, every ballot—I attribute it all the Creator who has formed me exactly in this way for the purposes of furthering His Kingdom. His instilling of passions and abilities is only using me as a vessel and testament to His goodness.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” —Ephesians 3:20-21
A Class of 2016 alumna, Rachel Leong attended Trinity starting in 2008. Now in her second year at George Fox University, Rachel is an Organizational Communications major and Sociology minor. In the future, she hopes to possibly start a Christian non-profit or get her PhD in anticipation of being a Professor in Intercultural Studies (and own a dachshund).
Why Speech and Debate Matters: Part 1
Written by Kai Glorioso, Class of 2018
It’s hard to articulate just how important public speaking is. As a senior, I can tell you that just about every presentation, every essay, and my upcoming thesis were all made much easier by using the skills I have learned in speech and debate. In the rhetoric stage (9-12th grade) of classical education, nearly every subject is in some way related to either critical thinking or eloquent speaking, both of which are used in Speech and Debate. It has been a huge blessing in my life, and I know that the TCS team has also been a huge blessing to many other students in the same way that it has been a blessing to me.
The Bible is very vocal about the use of speech among the prophets, apostles, and Christ Himself. As Christians, we are called to spread God’s Word, and by learning to speak concisely and thoughtfully, we can better communicate our message to the world around us. However, the ability to speak in public has become increasingly rare among high school students. Trinity, however, deviates from the status quo, not only offering, but requiring that students take at least one year of debate. This ensures that every student has exposure to public speaking and acquires strong research and logic skills.
I joined the debate class as a freshman. During that first year, I didn’t know much about what I was doing, but I knew I wanted to be there. The very concept of debate intrigued me, and I felt something about debate beckoning me to join the class. Plus, my favorite teacher was the coach, so it was a no-brainer at that point. But it wasn’t until after joining that I fully realized just how important speech and debate is. For the first two years, I was not very professional or eloquent, but eventually I gained enough experience to be a capable and eloquent speaker.
After 4 years on the team, I have seen nearly every student have one thing in common before their first tournament: anxiety. Every student is worried about their first debate round, believing that they will humiliate themselves, and that they are incapable of functioning in a debate environment. After the first tournament, every student has changed. The initial stress is gone, as every student discovered that debate is not nearly as scary as it appears on paper. For some reason, many people believe that public speaking is an incomprehensible skill that very few people have, but it is a skill that anyone can learn and reap benefits from. Students learn how to defend their beliefs, see issues from both sides, and present their stance persuasively and eloquently.
But that description alone makes speech and debate sound like a horribly boring extracurricular, which is simply an incorrect assumption. I have found that the class builds the same kind of teamwork, camaraderie, and friendship akin to those built by sport teams, and it is during these times of unity that much of the fun is present. In fact, many of my favorite memories from throughout high school come from the speech and debate team. Every January, the team flies to the Big Island to compete, and during those three days, everyone shares funny stories from the tournament, laughs together, sometimes cries together, and overall enjoys fellowship with one another. I’ll never forget being tricked by riddles, walking through lava fields, and eating a ton of ice cream as a team, simply out of the love we have for one another.
One of the key factors that makes Trinity’s team so wonderful is the fact that the goal of the class is not on victory or beating opponents, but on glorifying God and developing the skills that He has blessed us which. Sometimes we win, and that is truly wonderful, but for every victory we have also felt defeat. But in the midst of all of that, God is with us. Speech itself is a wonderful gift, but He has enabled our little school to have a team that uses speech not as a weapon, but as a means of finding the truth. Speech and debate has been a huge part of my life, and I thank God for the fact that He let me be on this team, and I hope that He will continue to bless people with the wonderful benefits of speech and debate.
TCS Speech & Debate December Tournament
Written by Dr. Halcomb, photos by students Lenya & Kaley
On Saturday, December 16th, the TCS Speech & Debate team came out in full force for the tournament hosted by and at McKinley High School. We registered 29 participants and, in addition to representing TCS with an utterly professional look, our students put on display superior speaking and debating skills. The level of decorum that most of our students exhibited, especially the newly minted JVers, was impressive. I was and am proud of this crew!
I sat in on sessions in which all the Honors (i.e. Varsity) debaters participated. We had one pair challenging last year’s state champions and, in my estimation, they did very well. Another team, in terms of winning more ballots, actually defeated the aforementioned champs and, as I watched them in action, I was blessed to see all the hard work they’ve put in thus far earn them victory. Another team I watched simply blew their opponents out of the water by relying on sound logic, argumentation, and evidence. On the one hand, it was difficult to witness because I felt a bit sorry for the other team but, on the other hand, it was affirming to see all the hours they had put in resulting in a “W.”
It was fun, too, to get to know the students outside of the typical school setting. While we were waiting for the ballots to get tallied, we played numerous card games and even managed to squeeze in some video games. We have some great teenagers among us and I’m thrilled to be in a role that allows me to challenge them, encourage them, and, hopefully, shape them in positive ways.
At the end of the day, it was a joy to see TCS receive 14 awards. In Junior Varsity Debate the following pairs all won awards: Jason Aviles & Melynda Bretz, Kaley Nellans & Brandon Lawrence, and Jackson Henry & Micah Litsey. In Varsity Policy Debate, team captain, Kai Glorioso, and his teammate, Lauren Baker, also received an award. In Beginner Public Forum the following pairs took home awards, too: Tanner Tamaye & Lauren Kanoho and Kaila Baker & Grace Klein. In the speech category of Original Oratory, the team captain, Lenya Goda, scored an award, as did Samuel Gilbert.
While there were a number of TCS teams that didn’t earn certificates, many of them still posted points for our school. In other words, even if they didn’t win the majority of ballots last Saturday, any points they did earn went toward our school’s win percentage. Thus, it was truly a team effort that earned us our first-ever Debate trophy! Go Lions! I’m grateful to have been a part of that. The trophy (included in the accompanying photo) reads: “McKinley High School Debate Tournament | December 16, 2017 | Highest Percentage of Wins.”
Come January, as we head into the second half of the season, we’ll keep working hard, sharpening our skills, bettering our attitudes, and focusing our vision. Most importantly, we’ll keep reminding ourselves that in any loss or victory, our aim to be better speakers, presenters, and thinkers has one telos: bringing glory to the God of the Bible, the one in whose image and likeness we were made. That’s a truth we all need to be reminded of during this Advent season. Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Speech & Debate Fall Tournaments
By Jake Hampton
Our secondary school Speech & Debate Team has been hard at work! So far this year, our team has been to three tournaments. The first tournament of the season was a Speech-only event on October 7th, at Kahuku High School. Kaila Baker and Lauren Baker both received Overall Superior ratings for their excellent work, and Kaila Baker managed to place first overall in her category, Impromptu Speaking.
The next tournment was on October 15th, where the Trinity Debate team went to Waialua for the first Debate tournament of the season. Lauren Baker and Grace Klein won their first round, lost only to a former state champion and his partner, and received a BYE for the last round of the Tournament. Overall, they won half their ballots.
Finally, last weekend (first weekend of November), the Trinity Speech team went to University Lab school double-entry tournament and performed at the largest event yet of the season. Out of eight students, we received three Overall Superiors, one for Lauren Baker for her Original Oratory piece, and two Overall Superiors won by Kai Glorioso in both Original Oratory and Impromptu Speech.
Our Trinity team has continuously done an excellent job of representing not only our school by the ideas of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty as they faced fierce competition and remained courteous and resolute. Congratulations to all our speakers and debators for their hard work!