EVANSTON — Three Evanston High School students — junior Rachael Hansen and sophomores Alyssa Liechty and Heinrich Schoedel — will travel with their speech and debate coach Bryce Strampe and assistant coach Aimee French to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where they will compete at the National Speech and Debate Tournament, June 17-22.
All 50 states in the U.S. participate in the tournament with 4,000 middle school and high school students, 1,100 schools and 110 districts involved. There are 13 different events, which include interpretive speech such as drama, humor, duo or poetry; platform such as oratory and extemporaneous speaking; policy in debate and Lincoln-Douglas debate on ethical and moral issues.
Hansen qualified to present an informative speech for competition. This is the only event where props are allowed, and they cannot use electronics. Rachael’s topic is “Books Equal Life.” She intends to give information about how books benefit an individual’s life as well as how books can benefit society.
Her research will show that people who read a lot of books live longer and are at a lower risk for dementia. She will cite the example of the novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe to show how a book can have an effect on society. Hansen quotes Abraham Lincoln when he told Stowe that her “little book” started the Civil War.
Hansen previously did oratory and impromptu but qualified for informative speech at district tournament. She said she is excited, as she wanted to try something new and creative.
“Deciding on what props to use was a difficult decision,” Hansen said.
She came up with an ingenious way of using Velcro to pull words out of books without harming the book. “I never want to damage or ruin a book,” she said.
Liechty likes the challenge of the public forum debate.
“It is an opportunity to collaborate with people from district and state,” she said.
In public forum, Liechty said that it is mostly a use of common sense and some facts from a personal perspective. Having to be ready to debate both sides of an issue makes it a challenging yet exciting form of speaking. She said she likes debate a lot and this is essentially her first year choosing it for herself. Last year at the district tournament, she had to replace someone who didn’t show up.
Schoedel is Alyssa’s partner for the debate at tournament. He said he’s also looking forward to the national tournament in a couple of weeks.
“I’m very excited and thankful for this opportunity to learn and grow as a debater,” he said, “and I know it’s going to be lots of fun.”
Examples of world school debate topics are:
• This House would not allow corporations to donate to political candidates, campaigns, or parties.
• This House regrets protectionist trade policies.
• This House would ban further development of artificial intelligence.
• This House supports China increasing its investment in Africa.
• This House believes that states should not celebrate nationally important historical figures involved in deeply immoral actions.
• This House believes that private gun ownership does more harm than good to personal security.
• This House believes that Puerto Rico should become an independent nation state.
Competitors need to be well versed on both sides of an issue since they could be chosen to debate either. In a common meet, students debate if they make it to finals, from 5-8 rounds, each lasting an hour, for days, then prepare to do it all again. It is a rigorous and challenging competition.
The speech program at Evanston High School is one of the lengthiest academic activities, running October through March. Students dedicate many hours to reading, writing and critical thinking. Strampe said the students willingly choose to write essays every month in addition to all their other course work and the stress of school.
“These are exceptional and eloquent young people,” he said, “and I am humbled by what they do.”