From the Podium: Hawaii Speech League – Please Support!!!

Author’s Note: During my formal schooling years I spent many a Saturday and many countless hours after school honing my skills in the fine art of oratory. Yes, I was a Forensics (Speech and Debate NOT C.S.I.) competitor in school. Last year, through my relationship with my buddy, R. Kevin Garcia Doyle , I recently rediscovered my Speech and Debate roots and have signed on as a judge for the Hawaii Speech League. I’ll be sharing some stories of my Speech and Debate years and new adventures in this realm as time goes on.

Punahou Debate Tournament


During my formal schooling years at Kamehameha I competed in Speech and Debate. I started in the 7th grade and competed through the 11h grade. In 7th grade I was the lone 7th grader on our Speech team. In the 8th grade there were a few more of us and the numbers got more as time went on. I did strictly speech from 7th – 10th grades. As a Junior I competed in Debate. I’ve always held an affinity for public speaking and have most definitely used those skills to good effect throughout my lifetime. I give much props to my old speech and debate teachers at Kamehameha: Luree Hayes, Lois Long and Walter Kahumoku.

My Life In Oratory

Public speaking is something I honed from an early age. In elementary school I served in student government in the 4th, 5th and 6th grades. Even then I was giving speeches to my fellow classmates. When I got to Intermediate school I jumped at the chance to develop my speech skills further. It was fun!! In my Intermediate school years I competed in Speech in the Storytelling, Humorous Interpretation and Impromptu speaking categories. By the time I got to high school I got involved in student government again where I once again found myself constantly giving speeches before my classmates and debating issues on the Senate floor. In high school, being an Honors student, I had a chance to study debate instead of the “normal” speech curriculum. Debate, while hard work, was a great exercise. We learned to research issues and organize clear, concise arguments. Spending hours upon hours in the library wasn’t really all that fun but looking back on it years later, especially now, my debate training is what has really helped set me apart from a lot of other people both in the classroom as well as the job market.

As an adult my public speaking skills are now called upon on a daily basis as in my role as a teacher/training as well as an advocate as I’m constantly presenting issues for discussion as part of the dozens of councils, committees and other ad-hoc groups I sit on in my job. Whether I am “entertaining” my students with fun tech stories to loosen them up for a lesson or seriously getting down to the nitty gritty on the Senate floor or Board Room with our College/University execs fighting for funding or policy changes I am VERY grateful for the invaluable training I received as a kid up on the hill over a decade and a half ago. Those invaluable public speaking, research and argumentation skills I developed as a child have been Key Success Factors for me as an adult.

So what exactly has prompted this particular post thread? My life in Speech and Debate ended nearly 15 years ago and I honestly never had a chance to look back as my life moved on. Just last year though, at a time in my life where I REALLY needed to learn to stand up and assert myself again, lo and behold life (or God or what not) led me back to my Speech and Debate roots. It turns out that my good buddy, Theatre and Improv guru R. Kevin Garcia Doyle also serves as a Speech and Debate coach at his day job at another well known private school and of course, the fine folks at HSL are always in need of good judges to staff their tournaments and give the students feedback on their performances. Being a former competitor and wanting to help a friend I of course said, “Yes.”

I’ve served as a judge for the Hawaii Speech League for the past year and today was HSL’s first debate tournament of the school year.

Debate Competition Primer

If you’re unfamiliar with Debate tournaments at the high school level there are three categories students can compete in: Policy (Varsity and JV), Lincoln-Douglas (Advanced and Novice) and Public Forum. In a nutshell, Policy debate is a team debate where the competitors must present an issue and a plan to implement change. Lincoln-Douglas is a one-on-one event where the debaters must argue on a value issue. Public Forum debate is a team event where the competitors argue for change on a current news issue. If you wish to read up more on what each category is feel free to read the excellent explanation on the HSL’s Debate page.
This year the HSL’s got some great topics. The Policy Debate topic runs for the entire competition year. Public Forum topics change monthly and L-D topics change every two months.

Here’s what the students are debating currently:

  • Policy Debate: “The United States federal government should substantially increase alternative
    energy incentives in the United States.”
  • Public Forum: “The United States should significantly increase its use of nuclear energy.”
  • Lincoln-Douglas: “It is morally permissible to kill one innocent person to save the lives of more innocent people.

Having judged last year and today, I must say that I am VERY impressed and proud of the youth that our school system is producing nowadays. The quality of research and argumentation and understanding of the issues these young students demonstrate of far beyond that of most adults. Some of the debaters I’ve seen the past year, if they wished, could easily transition themselves into promising careers in government or advocacy or law. At today’s tournament I had the privilege of sitting through 4 debates and for those students I saw today was just spot on awesome and I definitely hope to hear or see them develop into something great in the future.

As for the other debaters I saw today, a few of them looked like it was their first time debating and they did about as well as you’d expect but I definitely applaud them for putting themselves out there. They are that much ahead of the game than their peers who do NOT take advantage of opportunities like that.

Final Point

If you’re a student reading this, definitely take advantage of your schools speech and debate program if you have one. You’ll be better off for it in the future. If you’re a parent, definitely encourage your child to sign-up and participate. If you’re a reader and have extra time for one weekend a month, please volunteer as a judge for the Hawaii Speech League. You’ll help out a very worthy cause (our youth), be entertained (if judging an interpretive speech round) or educated (if judging a debate or oratory round).

To volunteer contact HSL Official and Judges coordinator Bill Teter at this e-mail.


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