By Daniel Salazar
Whether it’s a presentation at work or a school project, everyone has to do the dreaded task of public speaking. While most people try to weasel their way out, the members of the Muscatine Speech & Debate Team do the very opposite. Officially entitled the National Forensics League (NFL), the Speech & Debate Team was first chartered at the high school back in 1930, and since then MHS has sent more students to Nationals than any other school in Iowa. Now the question that most people ask quite frankly is, “what is speech and debate,” a simple question with a colorful answer.
Let’s start with debate. This is probably what most people think of when they think of speech, though they might not understand that there are different sections it’s divided into. There are Lincoln Douglas debates, where each debater is assigned to be either for or against a topic and must defend their stance. There is also what is called Congress, one of the more popular debate events in Iowa, where, like real life congress, a docket with different bills is presented, ranging from topics like implementing gun control, eliminating the death tax, and providing aid to the Syrian Civil War. These real-life issues are discussed by debaters taking turns giving a speech for or against the bill and is then voted on by everyone in the room.
Moving on to what is less known by people, the speech side. The easiest way to describe this part is competitive acting. For weeks, participants memorize a script that ranges from eight to ten minutes long and perform it using every part of their body to act it out. There are various forms of speech. A few are Humorous Interpretation (HI), Dramatic Interpretation (DI), extemporaneous speaking, Program Oral Interpretation (POI), public, spontaneous speaking, and even Duo, were you act out a scene with a partner. For people who like to inform, there is Original Oratory (OO), a eulogy type speech telling the audience about a cause or issue.
For the MHS Speech and Debate team, the main focus is the speech side of things. In one of their recent tournaments at the Harold C. Keller Invitational at Davenport West, the team did spectacular! Filling the slots for interpretation, Hannah Pautz came in 3rd with her DI, Aura Niaves came in 2nd with her HI, and Jeremiah Daniels & Ezekiel Ellis came in first with their Duo. Caylie McConnaha got 2nd in extemporaneous, and Seery Awbrey came in 2nd in POI, following Ezekiel Ellis in 1st. Kjirstin Osland came in 1st place for public speaking, and last but not least, in spontaneous, Aura Niaves came in 2nd, following Jeremiah Daniels in 1st.
Coming up for the Speech Team is the Lincoln Railsplitter competition in Des Moines, Iowa, marking the middle of their season, a point to really get their head in the game and to be the best they can be. “They are the most dedicated students I have ever seen, they work so incredibly hard and are putting 150% in every single practice, constantly searching for ways to get better,” said Abigail Zoller assistant coach. Certainly, Speech and Debate is no easy task but thanks to the passion and hard work it’s all worthwhile. “I do Speech & Debate because the act of speaking is a critical life skill,” explained Ezekiel Ellis.