From winning laughs to winning arguments, members of the Steamboat Springs High School speech team say they are learning skills that improve communication, develop open mindedness and boost confidence.
"A lot of students come up to me after starting with the speech team and say, 'You know, social studies is so much easier now,'" said Steamboat speech team coach Shauna Lamonsky. "Forensics teaches job skills, and many tend to interview well because of their increased confidence from speaking in front of people."
Traveling to a different part of the state almost every weekend for a speech tournament, the Steamboat team got a break from its rigorous travel schedule this weekend as it hosted a tournament Saturday with several regional high schools.
The tournament consisted of 10 events, ranging from debate-style speaking, to prepared public speeches, to acting interpretation events.
The debate competitions included a public forum competition, in which a team of two students is given a current opinionated issue for which they research and prepare pro and con arguments and compete against another team of two. This type of debate is similar to ones seen on the CNN show "Crossfire" or MSNBC's "Hardball."
In the public forum, Steamboat Springs High School students Kelly Shaw and Stephanie Engle prepared arguments in favor of and against the statement: "The United States is losing the war on terror." They competed against Jillian Rowley and Jory Adams of Summit County High School, who won the coin toss that decided who chose which side of the statement to argue for.
Rowley and Adams chose to negate the statement that the United States is losing the war on terror. Rowley spoke first. She said the United States is winning the war because the country is safer now that it was before Sept. 11, 2001, and the country has showed it is carrying out its goals of attacking countries harboring terrorists by capturing Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Also, the attacking of Iraq is a deterrent to other countries harboring terrorists, Adams said.
Engle argued that the United States is losing the war, citing serious acts of terrorism around the world other than the Sept. 11 attacks, and saying that it is impossible to rid the world of terrorism as President Bush has said is the goal of the war on terrorism.
She cited a statement by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge that the country is not safer now because of the raising of the threat level to orange in December. Engle also said the war is a failure because Americans are giving up liberties with the introduction of the Patriot Act.
It was apparent both groups had done extensive research and had practice arguing because of their professional tones.
"Arguing the stance they side with is always easier," Lamonsky said. "But arguing for a position they might not be in support of helps them respect other people's ideas and articulate their own ideas."
Another debate style competition was a one-on-one debate in which participants sided with the 19th century views of President Lincoln or former Sen. Stephen Douglass in arguments over which is more important, the environment or economic prosperity.
Several competitions took on a lighter tone, such as the interpretation events of poetry, drama and humor, by either one of two actors.
In the duo interpretation event, students acted out serious and funny skits, under the guideline that the two act out a drama by interacting without looking at each other.
Steamboat students Lydia Kindred and Cathryn Mann acted out a humorous skit called "Radio TBS," in which they were "trailer trash women" decorating their yard with a nativity scene.
"Acting out humor is so much fun," Mann said. "There is less pressure, and you can act like an idiot and its OK. We would fail if we did a drama."
Kindred said she enjoys being on the speech team because she loves acting and she gets to act in front an audience almost every weekend instead of three or four times per year in plays with the drama club. And, "You get an adrenaline rush from having people watch you," Kindred said.
Other events involved students having a prepared speech they memorized to persuade, inform, tell a story, or debate legislation.
Dana Schlingman of Hayden gave a speech in the original oratory competition, in which her objective was to persuade judges to believe an idea of her own, which was "living your life the way you want means happiness." In support of her argument, she asked, "Is your life the way you dreamed it would be when you were young?"
"In a crowd, I'm kind of a timid person," Schlingman said. "Here, I can gain ability with confidence. Where I live, I'm kind of in a bubble. This also helps me get out of that bubble and experience new things."
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