We Want Proof! The Political, The Dramatic, The Effective: Movers and Shakers From The World Of Speech & Debate
When we hear about how great speech and debate is, along with the benefits of participating in it, it can often feel like hearing about the nutritional benefits of a raw vegan lifestyle. To believe any of it, we need real life examples. Bring us the proof! Naturally, we want to be certain that if we’re giving up our fried Oreos, carnitas and veggie-less meals that we’re guaranteed at 100 years old, to look and feel like we’re 18.
Similarly, in speech and debate, if we’re committing our time after school and possibly on weekends, we want to know one, where this is going, and two, will students gain critical thinking skills, the ability to express their ideas effectively and improve academically. We don’t want just any proof, we need living proof. Naturally, we feel the need to check for public figures, celebrities and athletes for extra confirmation.
Look no further, we have proof! In this article we are turning the spotlight on a few well known professionals in the apex of their careers, including celebrities and public figures that are embracing what they've gained from their experience in speech and debate and showing us all, the diversity in what’s possible. Some names include, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, actor, Chadwick Boseman, best selling author, Celeste Ng, and Nandini Ramakrishnan. Below are more familiar and possibly unfamiliar names.
Oprah Winfrey is a media mogul, actress, activist, entrepreneur and living legend. Her work includes many amazing things including opening the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa. The National Speech and Debate Association alumni website sheds light on figures like Winfrey and quotes her as saying, “forensics gives you a sense of confidence in speaking in front of people, a sense of presence, and a sense of pride. It’s about the power of words to influence ideas, to uncover a higher truth, to change minds, and for a lot of people, even to change lives.”
BD Wong, a talented actor, a Lincoln High School alum, and Bay Area native. Wong began his Broadway debut in 1988. He truly has been paving the way as the only Broadway actor to earn The Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, Clarence Derwent Award, and Theater World Award for the same performance, M. Butterfly! His work includes Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Mulan and Mulan II.
Neal Katyal was an accomplished high school debater for Loyola Academy (IL) and Dartmouth College (NH). Currently he is a partner with Hogan Lovells, the Paul and Patricia Saunders Professor of National Security Law at the Georgetown University Law Center and former Acting Solicitor General for the United States. According to the NSDA website, he also broke Thurgood Marshall’s 50-year-old record to become the minority lawyer with the most oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court. Some of his accomplishments include lead counsel for the Guantanamo Bay detainees in the Supreme Court case Hamdan V. Rumsfeld 2006.
Brittany Cooper who competed in speech and also debate is now a writer and public speaker using her talents to uplift communities. Her experience has taken her to Rutgers University where she is a professor in Gender Studies and Africana Studies. NSDA quotes her saying, “The debate team was the first place I fit, the first place that my loud-mouth, yet slightly introverted Black girl self, felt included, seen, and sure of myself. I became a professor because I wanted to engage in the kinds of intellectual inquiry, and indeed to examine the kinds of critical thought—feminism and critical race theory—that I first learned to love while cutting cards and writing frontlines for Policy Debate.”
Kalen Allen from Sumner Academy in Kansas competed in Dramatic Interpretation. Kalen would go on to study at Temple University. He is a Digital Creator who is best known for his work on The Ellen Show and originally on ‘Kalen Reacts’ Youtube show where he is seen reacting and reviewing cooking videos. He is also a strong advocate in the LGBTQ community. NSDA quotes him as saying, “The best part about competing in speech and debate was being able to tell the stories I wanted to tell. But it was the freedom of expression and creativity in performing those pieces on a competitive level that strengthened my artistry while providing discipline."
Check out some of the incredible people that have been students of high school and college level speech and debate programs throughout the United States. Read here about the path they’ve taken. We hope you can see the possibilities with our program. Check out our amazing programs today!
Speech and Debate Alumni
The Golden State Academy