To Future Speech and Debaters

As my final season begins to warm up, I look back with thanks and admiration.

Shuban Tiwari, Staff Writer

September 2019. My first semester of high school. 

Perhaps my most influential semester, considering the decisions I made in that first semester, directed me towards an intellectual path I still tread along—four years later. 

As a naive freshman looking to pass my time, I joined a few clubs on a whim. Speech and Debate, DECA, Key Club, and a few more piqued my interest. But for the most part, I joined these clubs because of my friends. If they’re joining, why shouldn’t I? 

The vast number of opportunities offered at NA is incredible, and all the clubs I’ve been a part of, organizations that I’ve contributed to, and initiatives that I’ve run have all contributed to the development of various soft skills, which I’m sure will be valuable to me in the future. 

That said, I can confidently say that I wouldn’t be who I am today without Speech and Debate, and I know many others would agree. The club demands a rigorous character—intense, competitive, and challenging. But that also makes it exciting, rewarding and evolving. 

I remember the introductory meeting; I followed the Lincoln-Douglas Debate instructors because they seemed personable, and I liked the idea of competing alone. 

We grouped in a circle and were tasked with introducing ourselves using an adjective that starts with the first letter of our name and following that adjective with our actual name. For example, Snazzy Shuban. It was a silly game, but I felt comfortable and at ease, given the positive and accepting atmosphere. 

So I went to the next practice. And the next one. And then the next one. I was hooked. In all honesty, it was fun going since a few of my friends were already there. But that didn’t mean I didn’t make new friends. For as many friends as I had already had at the start of freshman year, that number pales in comparison to the number of friends I’ve made in debate over the years.

I’ve developed friendships with people I never thought I’d talk to, and they aren’t the average conversational friendships where we’ll catch up every few weeks out of obligation—they are genuine, facilitating personal growth, reflection, and introspection, the type of friendships that I hope last far beyond high school. 

But as enjoyable and friendly as Speech and Debate is, it still is a competition. Every weekend, when you’re having fun with your friends, goofing off in-between rounds, you’re also competing. Of course, everyone competes for different reasons, but to most people, winning matters. This, to a certain extent, is true, but I’ve learned to steer away from focusing entirely on results. 

To the future Speech and Debaters. Enjoy it. Enjoy it all. It ends way too soon.”

I’ve also learned that the best way to improve at debate is to be my most supportive cheerleader and my  harshest critic—the most successful speech and debaters have a successful balance of both. You have to be confident enough to win but humble enough to understand that there is always room for improvement. 

You get what you put into debate. The harder you work, the more you dedicate yourself to perfecting your craft, then the more success you’ll inevitably have. But, again, I want to emphasize that it isn’t always a linear path. There is certainly some luck involved, especially at individual tournaments. But as I said before, if you’re highly critical of yourself and look to improve from the competitor you were in the past, success will come—trust me. 

January 2023. My final semester of high school. 

I don’t know what’s in store for me this season. Not a clue. What I do know is that I’m looking forward to making this my most impactful semester. The memories I made as freshman and continue to make? They’ll stick with me, and with the season starting to warm up, I hope to make memories with this year’s team—show them why I fell in love with the experience as a freshman. 

To the future Speech and Debaters. Enjoy it. Enjoy it all. It ends way too soon.