Over the last 4 years, my experiences competing in Extemp have profoundly influenced my life and my view of the world. I entered freshman year with a confused, unclear vision of what i wanted to focus on in the years to come. I didn’t have many friends going in, and I prided myself in my incredible talent to be the most anti-social person in the school. But when my best friend spent a few hours detailing her exciting experiences in this odd, nerdy club called Speech and Debate, I decided to give it a try. Nothing to lose, right?
From the moment I attended the first club meeting, I felt a sense of belonging I had never experienced before. A lot of these people had never met me before, and as a result they had no preconceptions about me. As a result, I felt freer and more comfortable to open up to them and reinvent myself into someone more open and expressive, someone who was more comfortable in their own skin.
After three years of preparing and competing in speech and debate tournaments around the country, I thought I’d become immune to the stress that piles on before round 1, but the reality has been FAR from my expectation. As you all know, extemporaneous speaking revolves around analyzing current events to answer questions like “Has Turkey’s democratic transition been successful?” and “How can the UN end Myanmar’s refugee crisis?” Consequently, I am engaged in a persistent race to keep pace with the news. But the stress and ceaseless preparation has conditioned me to become an inquisitive, critical thinker. When I delivered my very first speech, I was filled with an adrenaline rush similar to that of a roller coaster ride. Becoming aware of my power to engage the room during my performance inspired me to begin meticulously dissecting my speeches and presentation skills, from altering my hand gestures to improving the variations in my vocal inflection.
When I first began Extemporaneous Speaking, I was thrown into a whirlpool of information about the world that stimulated new intellectual curiosity and social awareness. I began to understand the world in a lens beyond what is taught in high school textbooks. Analyzing the causes behind political fallouts and the impacts of economic policies taught me to evaluate my community on a global scale and inspired me to learn about issues beyond the incentive to succeed in the event. My passion to read and explore, coupled with the profound knowledge base I continue to gain not only inspires me to continue learning about the world around me but to also discover my role in it.
Through numerous intellectually stimulating conversations with my coaches and teammates, I realized that many may skim headlines about the government’s new policies or how the economy is faring, but few understand how those headlines directly impact their lives and societies. Speech and debate offers a literal platform for me to expound upon current events and teach my audience about issues they may otherwise not be exposed to. With seven minutes and a single question, I had the opportunity expand their view of our world outside their everyday lives. With seven minutes, I had the opportunity to engage them in a compelling description of how a distant country can have a direct impact on their lives.
To this day, every round of competition I enter fills me with the same adrenaline rush I had felt in that small classroom at my very first tournament. Now, I have one tournament left, and with the ability to speak and the opportunity to be heard, I can either talk until I exhaust my time, or use every second to express my thoughts and change the way my audience views their world. Seven minutes to make it count. Seven minutes to make a difference. I couldn’t be more excited.