Debate (mainly cross-examination) was an important activity for me in high school. Last summer, my sister Phoebe went to debate Nationals in North Carolina. She rocks! Here's what I had to say about debate senior year of high school:

My stomach turned somersaults as I stood on stage before more than 1000 expectant faces at my townís Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration. I proceeded to give a speech I had written with my best friend, expressing our optimistic views of society's journey into the future with our generation in the driver's seat. It was then, in eighth grade, that I took my first step toward overcoming my fear of public speaking. The venture was successful, for during that speech my butterflies quickly turned to pure adrenaline-induced excitement, which later inspired me to join my high schoolís debate team.

Since I made the initial commitment to join the team in my sophomore year, debate has been richly rewarding--beyond the trophies and community recognition. The activity has opened my mind to a range of engrossing topics, fostering an ability to see all sides of an issue before making any judgment. Each year the cross-examination topic has been on the front-burners of political focus. Thus Iíve researched subjects such as Brazilís deforestation regulations, NAFTA, Clintonís health care package, GATT, the U.S. auto industry, managed competition, current immigration restrictions, and other interesting controversies. There are a plethora of views on every subject, and in order to be a successful debater, itís important to know them all and be able to effectively argue them. Debate is the ultimate intellectual engagement, for with extensive research comes a deeper understanding of these complicated issues, which has allowed me to form my viewpoints on a solid foundation of knowledge.

Debate is more than research, though. I have also honed my skills of thinking on my feet, formulating arguments (beyond what I have learned through my role as an older sister), and persuasively verbalizing my ideas. These skills are put to the test at the tournaments my team attends all along the west coast. A joyful part of these tournaments is when I get the chance to meet dynamic thinkers, my age, with unique ideas--and the ability to communicate them. I also learn more about my teammates and friends on the long-haul bus rides late at night, when true opinions and aspirations are shared.

Our team is set up so that the more experienced debaters share their knowledge with the new novices. This pyramid of learning strengthens the friendships between team members and is a satisfying way to ensure the growth of an activity that has given me so much in three years. Thinking back to my eighth grade speech, I still get butterflies in my stomach before any public presentations, but debate and speech have proven that the benefits outweigh the initial fear.

(written fall 1994)

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