Spotted this in the news: the Greybull High School speech team won first place in the 1A/2A Wyoming state championships and seventh place in the state overall. This was a wonderful result, especially for a small-town high school. Various Greybull students triumphed in such events as Oratory and Program Interpretation, Duo Interpretation, Humor, Informative Speaking, and Debate. Congratulations! Much hard work went into their victory.
Many years ago, I participated in the Oakton High School debate club. My partner Ken Marton (a future Ph.D. scientist) and I qualified for the state championship, where we finished somewhere near the middle of the pack, and four years of debate at the College of William and Mary, where John Vile and I took first place at the LaSalle University debate tournament. Debate coaches Barbara Sue Carter and the late Patrick Micken were among my major influences. Although William and Mary was and still is a first-rate school, and I learned a lot in all my classes, my experience in competitive debate became my undergraduate college highlight. Many of my debate team friends went on to various spectacular careers in business, academia and law. And, of course, my wife, Dr. Elaine Clanton Harpine, was a speech and debate team member at Southwest Texas State University (now called Texas State). Obviously we were made for one another.
Speech and debate contests give students far more speaking experience than any class could. Speech and debate team students gain confidence and skill. Public speaking contests teach students to prepare, to understand their audiences and relate to other people, and to express their ideas and feelings clearly and persuasively. Debate and speech contests teach students critical thinking and research skills far beyond even the best classroom opportunities. My speech and debate experience shaped my post-college career in more ways than I could have imagined. I pride myself on careful research and evaluation, and I thank my debate experience for teaching me how. Many outstanding leaders in and out of government learned about persuasion by debating in school.
In an era of tight budgets and anti-education propaganda, too many schools and colleges have cut back on these expensive, time-consuming programs. From the standpoint of education, these wonderful programs are worth every dime and all the effort. Congratulations again to the Greybull students. I expect to see you do great things in your lives.
P.S.: Never, ever underestimate small schools.