The Speech and Debate Club is an enigma- not much is known about it, but it appears intimidating to those who first hear about it. Public speaking and debating is usually not an innate skill, but rather one earned by hard work and the dense pressure of time.
Luckily, the club, which has weekly meetings on Fridays afterschool at the IRC, is an open, positive environment where individuals who are eager to challenge themselves in speech and debate gather. As there are no longer any tryouts, anyone can join and experience what “ speech and debate” truly entails.
The club offers a variety of events in speech and debate, as well as a slew of tournaments and invitationals to test one’s skills in their chosen event(s) from well-established schools such as Stanford, Berkeley, and Yale, to local high schools such as Long Beach (Jack Howe) and Fullerton.
I was the club’s secretary- and am now the co-president -and have done speech and debate since 8th grade. The thrill and joy of debating and performing in tournaments, as well as the bonds formed after a long day of rushing frantically to-and-fro on an unfamiliar campus and other similar activities that one does at a tournament, is such a unique and adrenaline-filled experience. Regardless of winning or losing, one has fun either way.
I interviewed Nadia Chung (12) and Paul Kang (12), former co-presidents of the Speech and Debate Club, so that those interested can learn more about the club.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
THE SPARTAN: What is the club about?
PAUL: The Speech and Debate club is all about learning effective communication. Whether it’s informing the audience about important current events through a Public Forum style debate, cracking jokes during a Humorous Interpretation, or improvising your way through Impromptu, communication is an integral part of Speech and Debate’s identity.
NADIA: All of these events sort into the broader categories of either speech or debate. Speech events are performance-based and often require writing or finding a script, while debate events are research-based and usually require preparing arguments for or against a set resolution.
PAUL: We’re welcome to everyone, to both those who are passionate and ready to compete in tournaments, and to those who are simply looking to improve their public speaking.
How did you get into Speech and Debate?
PAUL: I first started doing Speech and Debate at the end of 5th grade through an academy near Pasadena. When I began, I had no aptitude for public speaking, for thinking on my feet, or awareness of current events. However, with the help of many of my coaches and fellow competitors, I was able to turn my lack of confidence on its head and become comfortable with talking in front of people. This stands to be the main reason I’m in the club today – I want to help people that are like me: novices who want to become better communicators but lack the foundation to do so.
NADIA: Strangely, I have always really enjoyed public speaking. So, at the end of eighth grade, I decided to try out for the team and sign up for the Speech and Debate elective to compete the following year. Initially, I only wanted to do speech events and I told our coach that I didn’t want to debate. I’m really grateful that she didn’t let me follow through with that idea and that she encouraged me to at least try Lincoln Douglas Debate because it immediately became (and is still) my favorite event.
What is one memorable moment from your experience in the club?
NADIA: One of my favorite Speech and Debate memories was competing at Cal Lutheran with Iris Epstein, Pru Yontrarak, and Stephanie Hwang. Since the tournament was on a weekend, all of the rooms that we were supposed to debate in were locked. So, I remember delivering a speech standing in the grass and debating one round sitting on a couch in a hallway, while another round was happening right next to us. Between our own rounds, we spectated each other’s rounds and it was so much fun to cheer each other on. It was overall just a super funny and enjoyable weekend.
What are the benefits of learning Speech and Debate?
NADIA: There are so many! In pretty much all of the events, there is a strong emphasis on delivery and clarity, which really pushes you to be intentional with what you say and how you say it. Participating in speech events is also a unique platform for advocacy. When you have 10 minutes to speak about any topic you want, you have an opportunity to impact everyone in your round. In terms of debate, all of the months of research and case building teach you how to create sound argumentation. And, since you must argue on both the affirmative and the negative of each resolution, debating a topic helps you understand the nuances and differing perspectives regarding contentious matters.
PAUL: No matter what profession or field you go into, it is undeniable that you will be surrounded by people, and it is impractical to ignore that web of relationships surrounding you. When you know how to effectively communicate with people – not only how to speak, but how to listen – avenues of opportunities will open up for you. Not only will Speech and Debate give you the skills necessary to give an elevator pitch to a higher up, but the style of critical thinking it advocates for – playing Devil’s advocate – is the driving force behind increasingly important skills in the world, such as red teaming and white hat hacking.
Why should people join?
NADIA: I think people should join the team because as they explore the different events, I really think they will love at least one of them! Competing in Speech and Debate provides a unique opportunity to engage in a discourse that involves students from around the nation.
PAUL: Besides the benefits listed above, Speech and Debate is a genuinely positive environment, with so many people readily willing to help a fellow student prepare for an upcoming tournament, practice a speech and give feedback, or find evidence while building a case.
More information on the club will be on flyers that will be posted soon. Any additional questions, comments, and concerns can be directed to Nadia Chung and Paul Kang through their respective emails, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com!