Having done debate for almost five years now, many are surprised when I tell them that my start in competitive forensics was not in Congressional Debate, but rather Oral Interpretation. My middle school days were filled with black binders, cutting pieces, and several uncoordinated outfits.
A self-proclaimed actor, I never saw myself or imagined competing in debate events. The choice to do so for the first time was quite out of character.
The days leading up to the middle school tournament were frustrating, to say the least. I scrolled through articles about topics I had never heard of, spent hours unable to think of a single argument, and struggled to garner the confidence to be passionate about what I was saying.
Yet, months away from graduating from both high school and high school debate, I have come to terms that my most valuable educational experience has come from surpassing this struggle and participating in debate.
Walking into the first round was intimidating, but with the help of my peers and coach, I felt ready to talk about significant issues, unbeknownst to me just a few weeks prior. I delivered my speeches, asked questions, and, to my surprise, felt really good about my performance.
I wanted to keep competing, but I began to realize that there was so much content knowledge that I didn’t know. Outside of the round, when my fellow competitors were engaged in a political discussion, I oftentimes stood silent. I felt uncomfortable, but most of all, unintelligent.
Every debate tournament became the ability to change that feeling. With every packet of legislation I had to debate, my eyes were opened to a wealth of knowledge. Whether it was the Syrian Refugee Crisis or even our own domestic infrastructure, reading new articles taught me about the world and changed how I acted in it.
The path to being a global citizen, through engaging in issues beyond our own borders, was created because of my involvement in debate.
Debate has given me more than any trophy or accomplishment. It allowed me to formulate my own opinions about the world around me. It has connected me to issues I feel passionate about. Most importantly, it has connected me to people I care about.
While I don’t have many tournaments left, I treat each one as a learning opportunity. They are a way to not only improve in debate, but to learn something I didn’t know before. I know that with every article I read, every speech I give, and every question I ask, I grow as a person.
To everyone who has been with me along this journey, thank you, because it has truly made the difference.