Branksome Hall News

A Triumphant Worlds

The 31st World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships (Worlds) was a resounding success. “It’s been absolutely amazing!” said competitor Tawongaishe Nhawu from South Africa.
The week-long tournament began with an inspiring keynote address by George Elliott Clarke at the Opening Ceremony. The former Toronto and Canadian Poet Laureate spoke to an excited audience of more than 150 competitors and coaches who arrived at Branksome from 11 countries.

“As the first Canadian school in the history of the championships to host this event, it’s a proud and defining moment for us,” said Karen Jurjevich, Principal. Two Branksome students also represented the school in the competition, including Emma Zhou. “I really enjoyed attending my first Worlds at my school because I was supported by my friends, the judges and my teachers who kept telling me ‘good luck’ in the halls,” said Zhou.

The world’s best young orators spent four days competing in rounds of Debate, Impromptu Speaking, Interpretive Reading, as well as Persuasive and After-Dinner Speaking. “I’ve never attended a tournament with such a high level of competition before,” said Anne Kaplan, a competitor from the United States. “What I found to be interesting was seeing the different styles and techniques that different countries and individuals bring,” added Sarah Albert-Rozenberg, also representing the United States.

While the tournament lasted five days, students spent months preparing. “Since January I’ve been speech writing, getting my readings ready, practicing, and going over impromptu and debating techniques,” said Andrew Sparks from South Africa. “It’s been lots of work but it’s all part of the fun, you have to come here and have a bit of fun and I think we all have.”

During their stay, competitors and coaches, many of whom had never been to Toronto or Canada before, also visited popular tourist attractions. “We went for dinner at the CN Tower during sunset which was really good and Niagara Falls was very impressive,” said Sparks. “We also went to some of the more authentic and unique places, too, like Kensington Market.”

Twelve competitors advanced to the Grand Finals at the University of Toronto’s Hart House, including Nhawu. “I was honoured and the people I competed against were such talented individuals¬–they’re all so brilliant.”

Following the finals, guests were invited to the Closing Ceremony with keynote speaker and 2019 Rachel Phillips Belash Speaker, Chrystia Freeland. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Member of Parliament gave an engaging address and took student questions. “The two speakers, George Elliott Clarke and Chrystia Freeland, were a great fit for this competition because they’re both fantastic public speakers and they addressed the issues and current events that we debated,” said Zhou.

Congratulations to the overall World Public Speaking champion, Anna Croxon from Canada, and to the Holleley Award winner, Christian Suen from Hong Kong. For a full list of winners in each category, click here.

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