All About Speech and Debate

Reo Lee

The Speech and Debate team had seen many of their students place at recent State Competition: Renee Li and Lillian Ye were finalists of the Quarterfinals in Public Forum, Angela Wang (fourth place) and Leo Yu (seventh place) in Congress, Pranav Pattatathunaduvil (second place), Angela Wang (fourth place), Anushka Kumar (fifth place) and Kelly Hu (sixth place) in International Exempt.

“I’ve been debating since 8th grade and seriously competing since freshman year,” Li said. “I only joined the class in middle school because I was curious, but I found myself really enjoying researching different topics and becoming a more articulate and confident speaker.”

Within the vast and diverse field of Speech and Debate, Li participates in the public forum debate (PDF), a category that changes topics every one or two months, making it crucial to learn new information all the time.

“Speech and debate is a general activity that encompasses a large breadth of different public speaking/performance events,” Li said. “Someone participating in public forum debate (my primary event) will compete with a partner against other teams to prove a statement regarding a current event/policy topic true or false in a series of short, somewhat improvised speeches.”

Li explains that preparing to go up against an opponent usually comes after taking a series of steps: researching general information on a topic, brainstorming arguments for both pro/con, pre-writing responses to arguments, and debating in practice rounds.

“PDF is a very time-intensive event,” Li said. “But thanks to pdf, my public speaking, research/critical analysis, and collaborative skills have improved dramatically.”

On top of technical skills, Li shares that PDF has really helped her become a much more globally conscientious and educated individual. She came to understand what intrigues her intellectually, even opening up some potential future career ambitions.

“I really think speech/debate is such a good source of soft skills that can be applied pretty much anywhere, and my big accomplishments will always stick with me,” Li said. “When I placed at nationals last year after beating well-known teams, I felt like all the hard work and time spent into such a challenging activity was finally being rewarded and recognized.”

Hu, a fellow student on the Speech and Debate team, also shares about her experience on the team from when she started until now.

“I have been competing in speech and debate since middle school,” Hu said. “In 6th grade, I registered to compete at my first speech tournament, and even though it was absolutely terrifying, I immediately fell in love with it all: from the thrill of competition to meeting awesome team members to seeing fellow talented competitors.”

Unlike Li, Hu mainly participates in Extemporaneous Speaking, a limited-prep event in which competitors have 30 minutes of preparation time to prepare a 7-minute speech on a current events topic they receive at the beginning of the preparation time.

“I usually prepare for tournaments by attending after-school practices with the Plano West Speech and Debate Team, where we give practice speeches, ask questions, discuss topics, and more,” Hu said. “On my own time, I regularly read and keep up with current events.”

Hu looks to the Speech and Debate team as fondly as Li, claiming that being involved completely transformed her as a person.

“I definitely recommend speech and debate for upcoming students,” Hu said. “Through this activity, I have built my self-confidence, gained important communication skills, and refined my research, analysis skills, made countless valuable memories and friendships.”