An Informed Identity-Nithya Reddy

I’d like to think that one activity doesn’t define me, but rather my diverse extracurriculars add to my complexity. However, my involvement with the Speech and Debate club in my high school has shaped who I am. When I first entered high school, I lacked self-awareness and self-confidence. It was my mother actually who forced me to join; I needed help with how I interacted with people and public speaking. Being a senior, I cannot recognize the person I used to be because this club has lead to immense personal growth. My success as a leader and speaker is due to four years in Speech and Debate, and now I can see the tangible impact this activity in not only my personality but also my academics. 

More specifically, it was extemporaneous speaking that was the definite beginning of a more politically aware me. My coach first put me in extemp because there were extra spots in DX during my sophomore year districts. When I didn’t drop after the first round, I thought hey, maybe this could be a full time thing. It was definitely inflated confidence, but it was enough to make me pursue extemp my junior year. At first, it was just my speaking that ensured I didn’t get dead last in any round. I didn’t really develop my analytical skills until after a couple of tournaments of consistently ranking in the middle of the room. Obviously I was doing something wrong, but I realized I was missing the structure of extemp entirely. 

One person who was instrumental in this process was a friend of mine, Chris Mayer. He really showed me what it meant to understand the different complexities in foreign hegemony and also domestic affairs. I found my passion in extemp. I knew I loved public speaking, but extemp was a way to extend knowledge and analysis and explore foreign powers in a real way. It gave me access to deeper parts of myself I didn’t know existed in terms of learning. I started using my own structure for extemp speeches, which was basically no structure. I just went up there in front of judges and my peers and talked about what I knew and admittedly “creatively writing” what I didn’t know. I spent all my prep time researching, barely practicing. Whenever I gave an extemp speech, I felt a surge of both excitement and contentment. I feel lucky to have found something that I loved and something that allowed for personal growth. The person I am today is because of this activity.