Thirty years ago, the United States Army’s slogan was “We do more before 9 AM than most people do all day.” Well, this year I feel as though the Speakin’ Beacons have done more before we attend our first tournament than most teams do all season: we’ve taught the young, hosted our neighbors, and visited the imprisoned, all in the month of October. And our season-opening tournament, at Linfield College, is still two weeks away.
On October sixth, we traveled to Salem to compete in a one-day tournament sponsored by Capitol Toastmasters in the Oregon State Penitentiary. Junior Eric Fromm, a Communication major from Canby, and Junior Ryan Vermilyea, an Interdisciplinary Studies major from Junction City, competed against college debaters from the U of O, Seattle University, Willamette, Lewis & Clark, among others. Most interesting of all, and ultimately most successful of all, were the teams made up of inmates: four such teams were entered in the tournament, and three of the four took the top three places. Eric and Ryan learned a lot from the experience, and had a lot of stereotypes shaken up.
Then, on October 12 and 13, we hosted the second annual West Coast Classic, a tournament for homeschooling students organized by a league named Stoa. Eighty competitors from Oregon, California, Washington and Colorado filled our campus, debating in various formats on topics ranging from the US military to the importance of privacy to the likely future of Apple Computing. They also gave speeches composed on the spot with topics ranging from provocative quotes to current events to theological problems. They were an energetic and polished group, and the NCU faculty and staff who volunteered as judges raved about how serious, intense and well-prepared they were. Here’s hoping some of them choose NCU!
Next, after one quiet weekend to catch our breath and hit the books, we wrapped up October by hosting the first Willamette Valley League meet for the 2012-13 season, which we playfully named the “Frankenstorm Schadenfreude.” The annual WVL series, dreamed up by William Andersen over at LCC, brings debate programs in and around Eugene together for single day meets made up of very casual rounds of competition. It’s a low pressure environment that’s especially nurturing for beginner debaters who want to start slowly and feel safe making mistakes. Topics included the shortcomings of American presidential elections, the danger of cutting military spending to curb the national debt, the benefits of capitalism for all socioeconomic classes, and the advisability of military intervention in Mali. Ed Fryrear, a junior from Virginia majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies, and Emily Kaelin, a freshman biology major from Eugene, both first-time competitors, placed third overall, with Kaelin winning the third overall speaker award. The more seasoned team of Ryan Vermilyea and Mark Hamilton, a senior Communication major from Washington, were crowned the tournament champions, with Mark taking honors as the top speaker.
NCU’s Speaking Beacons are students first, well-rounded students second, and forensics competitors third. At other schools I’ve coached students who spent fifty to sixty hours a week on forensics, with class and other learning opportunities far down their priority list. They win more tournaments, but they pay a forbidding price for those trophies. NCU students balance forensics with other activity, putting substantial time into honing their reasoning and speaking skills, but not letting the obsession with victory so drown their other ministry openings that they become unidimensional. It can mean fewer bragging rights at the end of the season, but it also means fewer regrets and missed opportunities. It’s a healthy balance, and I’m proud that they maintain it.
Doyle Srader, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Speech and Communication