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Speech And Debate Kicks Off Season With Grapevine Classic Tournament

Team begins rebuilding their team post-COVID
Photo by David Coale
At the Grapevine Classic sophomore Annika Ghai and freshman Camden Coale pose for Coale’s father. Ghai participated in the original oratory competition. “I like debate because it helps you develop relationships and become acquainted with current events,” she said.

Sophomore Annika Ghai is part of the Speech and Debate team that competed in their first tournament of the year, the 34th annual Grapevine Classic on Sept. 9-10.

At tournaments, Ghai participates in the original oratory category. This category consists of writing and performing an original speech, on a topic that the competitor chooses, with creativity being a major component.

 “It’s a ten minute speech that you write yourself,” Ghai said. “Then you memorize [it] until it’s perfect and you entertain people with it.”

Ghai says that for her, putting on a performance is one of the most enjoyable parts of competing.

 “I enjoy standing in front of a large audience and presenting something that I wrote myself,” Ghai said.

Ghai, who is also in choir, used her performing skills to add a creative aspect to her speech. During her speech, she decided to sing “The Family Madrigal” from “Encanto.” She chose to perform this song because many of the characters in “Encanto” are perfectionists, which was the subject of her speech. 

“There’s a lot of pressure put on us by our parents, our society and ourselves,” Ghai said. “[Pressure] can lead us to be depressed and have major mental health issues.”

Ghai cited in her speech that perfectionism has grown about 33% since the 1990s. She also mentions that being in the Talented and Gifted program has contributed to her personal struggle with perfectionism.

“I’m in TAG and a lot of people in TAG I think are big perfectionists,” Ghai said.

Competitors write one speech and compete with the same speech for the whole competition season, editing and revising it throughout the year. This tournament was one of Ghai’s first chances to compete with her speech. However this year, Ghai was the only member of the team able to compete in the tournament, placing 20th out of 44 competitors.

“[My speech and debate camp over the summer] did help me with a lot of things, but I wanted my speech to be more unique instead of the basic format,” Ghai said. “So after the camp was done, I spent some time editing and revising it at home and I made sure to practice a lot in front of my parents, my sister and my friends to make sure it was good. Also, I watched a lot of award-winning oraroties by other high school students on YouTube like Haris Hosseinis ‘Simply Put,’ that influenced me a lot.”

The debate team currently has 20 people in total and is trying to grow. After COVID-19 canceled many competitions and forced the remainder online, the debate team numbers suffered.

“With COVID-19 and everything we kinda had a reset and a little bit of a lull,” debate  teacher Toby Whisenhunt said.

Now clearing many coronavirus induced challenges, Whisenhunt describes this time as a rebuilding year for the team and the debaters have noticed this as well. 

“We’re trying to get out of this dry spell that we’ve been in,” junior and varsity debater Peyton Bono said.

The team tries to recruit new members for the team by pointing out the benefits and skills developed in speech and debate.

“It’s also a lifelong skill,” Ghai said. “It’s really important to know how to talk to people.”

Bono makes similar points and believes that her writing and communication skills have improved since joining the team. 

“I think that debate might not be for everyone, but everyone should give it a try because it [also] helps familiarize you with some of the world’s issues and gives you a multifaceted view onto them,” Bono said.

The Grapevine tournament kicked off Highland Park’s debate season and more tournaments are soon to come. In between tournaments, the debate team is focused on rebuilding membership and achieving competition success. 

“[We’ve been] expanding the team and making it bigger and better,” Bono said. “[We want to make] Highland Park one of the big debate powerhouses of Dallas.”

About the Contributor
Elaine Engel
Elaine Engel, Reporter
What are you looking forward to on the staff this year? I'm looking forward to the incredible community of people and the constant opportunities to work on projects I’m passionate about What are your favorite TV shows/movies? West Wing, The Trail of the Chicago Seven, and Top Gun: Maverick Where’s the next place on your travel bucket list and why? I would love to travel to Machu Picchu because of the combination of a beautiful view and interesting history