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Competitive speech gives me hope for humanity

March 27, 2015

I love our speech team. There, I said it. I thought I’d hate it, with policy debate not being an option, but I fell in love with the interpretation side of speech. And it certainly didn’t take very long, either. And there are good reasons for that.

The main one, though, is that speech has lit a fire in me that I haven’t felt in a while. Or ever, honestly. Be it John Wells’ piece on mandatory minimums (That speech is awesome, yo), Aimee Miller’s program oral interpretation piece on feminism and Wonder Woman (again awesome), Michael Horath’s prose interpretation on talking about the past (downright amazing) or even my prose on suicide (thoroughly meh), if you write about it, you care about it.

But that goes for a lot of things. What sets the speech circuit apart is the hard topics that the best speeches focus on. How many times do you see a guy speaking about feminism, a white male talking about racism and privilege or anyone talking about religion in a constructive manner? Almost never.

See, that’s why I love the speech community. People get together for two days and just, to paraphrase Michael’s entire prose, talk about things. I’ve seen speeches on hunting (Aimee, again), racism, sexism, suicide, miscarrying, gender identifications and even one on asexuality. These are not subjects that are talked about on an interpersonal level. Not often, anyway. Under normal circumstances, I don’t mention race. I don’t talk about the systematic barriers that black people face on the regular, because that’s not what people like to hear.

So imagine what I feel like when a white dude gets up, clears his throat, and launches a 10-minute speech on … privilege. Or when a Hispanic student actually shows us, through dramatic or duo interpretation, what it’s like to be an immigrant. (You haven’t had feels until you’ve seen the Latino adaptation of “Death of a Salesman.” You just haven’t.) These are brave souls who can spend the time they could be spending drinking and sleeping on crafting speeches. And while there’s certainly a winner, there really are no losers.

We get together and we tell our stories. Or someone else’s stories. And everyone is so positive about them, too. Sometimes people even get invited to talk more about the issue after the round. These are people who are unsatisfied with the “if we stopped talking about it, it’ll go away” excuse. They believe we can be better than we are. Maybe that requires some basic cultural changes, but they think we can do it. But that starts with talking about it.
Shout out to Rebecca Buel and Aimee Miller, too, for making the speech team so great.

Anthony Adams

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