I judged a round of Original Oratory yesterday morning at the National Forensics Tournament here in Dallas. No, this is not a tournament as to who can fingerprint the fastest á la CSI but rather a tournament that brings together the best high school speakers and debaters across the country to compete in a variety of events.
The student competitors are an amazing group of young men and women. (In fact, if you are ever feeling fearful for the future of our country, volunteer to judge next fall at a local Forensics/Speech and Debate Tournament. I guarantee you will feel better about both this country’s youth and our future.)
In one round, I judged seven Original Oratories. An Oratory is an original speech written by the speaker, hence the name “Original Oratory.” Some students made me laugh . . . a lot, while others impressed me with their research or eloquent delivery, but most importantly, they each made me think. The speeches are both persuasive and motivational in nature, and the best ones leave the listener feeling both inspired and questioning the status quo.
It’s amazing to listen to young men and women question our society and culture. These kids get it. They may not have the solutions to our problems, but they are far more aware of what’s going on than we, as a society, often give them credit for. Their commentary on life is thought provoking and inspired.
One excellent speech addressed the one sided nature of sex education in our country. In her health class she learned how to properly “install” a condom on a cucumber (really?!?) and knew all kinds of details about the physical mechanics of sex but the curriculum never addressed the emotional impact and consequences of being sexually active at a young age. Hmmm . . . interesting, and, I would agree, a problem.
In another speech, a student talked about the self-esteem movement that has merely led to a generation of narcissists who consider themselves above average but have nothing to back that claim up. As a teacher, I can’t say that I disagree with him.
A third speaker in that room tackled Yoda’s quote from Star Wars, “Do or do not. There is no try,” and he discussed the value of realistic goal setting.
These are Juniors and Seniors in High School who have figured this stuff out early. They get it. There’s more to sex than what we see in movies and on TV, false praise doesn’t lead to excellence but rather to narcissism, and we need to believe we can achieve realistic goals if we hope to do so.
As a writer this inspires me. If a teenager can write something that really makes me think, then maybe I can too. I won’t get there without hard work and some realistic goals, but at forty one, I already know this . . . right?