With a few notable competitive exceptions, Oratory has never been my event. Quite frankly, I got sick of solving the world’s problems in a ten minute speech (I was used to solving them in seven minutes). Oratory felt shallow and cliché as I was forced into a set structure, tone, and the inevitable fabrication of my sob stories. Ultimately, as I sat in more oratory rounds and bickered with my coach to leave the event, I understood my largest issue with Oratory was authenticity. From the first speech that involved a sob story about a speaker’s terminal battle with swine flu to speeches at the national level that have profited off of lies, Original Oratory has become original hyperbole and original fiction. While these speeches succeed and garner attention, our speech community has to ask serious questions about the integrity of the event. How can Original Oratory be regarded credibly without standards for authenticity?
As a competitor and observer of the speech world, I understand the temptation of lying about Oratory. Who will check? Who really cares? The issue is that the small misrepresentations in Oratory sob stories sanctions larger amounts of academic dishonesty across the community. While it may be anecdotal, the perfect example of this is Congressional Debate. At local tournaments in the tristate area, it’s an open secret that judges will conveniently buy any piece of evidence. Whether you cite the New York Times or Brookings, the judges will comment “nice sourcing” on your card that states ISIS is actually a North Korean conspiracy. As coaches become dissatisfied with the rampant dishonesty of Congress (both inside the beltway and out), they corral their competitors into the Extemp Prep Room. Fittingly, a Congress Debater who has competed in an environment that gives no credence to sourcing tries to repeat the same behaviors in Extemporaneous Speaking. Thus, the source check was created to prevent dishonesty, which has become a fairly efficient tool. In oratory, no one will source check sentimentality or the subsequent sources. As younger orators who inevitably will find roadblocks in their research and writing process see lying as the way out, we’re creating a culture of lying that will carry them beyond speech.
Just like an Oratory, the solutions section is incredibly difficult to implement. With an incredibly diverse and autonomous community, the ultimate answer is self-policing. Extemporaneous Speaking and district tournaments in Oratory force students to have correct citations and quotations. Still, there’s a reason why tab challenges exist: these systems can’t check everyone. Oratory, like Extemp, should employ a centralized system of sourcing, where competitors cannot compete unless their sources are verified. Here, those who may not see success will still encounter honest sourcing and unlike previous Nationals gaffes, those who want to cheat will face real consequences. With two years left in this activity, I have many Oratory rounds ahead of me. I just hope I won’t hear the plot of Ace Ventura: Kid Detective, Steel Magnolias, or Fast & Furious as other competitors’ sob stories. Both inside and out of the round, it’s better to be hOOnest.