With late-night judging and early-morning competing, the Branksome Hall debating team juggled international time zones along with formidable competition at the World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships, April 23 to 26.
Undaunted, all four Branksome Hall competitors advanced to multiple event finals in four potential categories: Grade 12 student Emma in debating and impromptu speaking; Grade 11 student Amonda in persuasive speaking and impromptu speaking; and both Grade 11 student Maylee and Grade 10 student Nia advanced to all four finals, i.e. debating, interpretive reading, impromptu speaking and persuasive speaking. Watch a playlist of some of the speeches here
Remarkably, in terms of overall results, Nia placed sixth in the world, while Maylee placed third in the world. Additionally, Branksome Hall distinguished itself as the only school with more than one student in the top ten.
In the virtual format, hosted by South Korea this year (and Branksome Hall in 2019
), the ‘Worlds’ represented 130 students from a diverse mix of high schools from countries as far reaching as Australia, Hong Kong, South Africa, Lithuania, India and China.
Maylee, who calls persuasive speaking her “strong point,” spoke of the disparity in treatment of female patients within the medical field.
“I like to choose a topic that’s right in front of us and bring it to light,” says Maylee. She was inspired by a story of a couple having to go to the hospital for separate issues, “but [the man] got more painkillers despite the lesser severity of his illness, which is essentially unfair.”
Nia’s persuasive speech also focused on gender disparity in the treatment of attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder (ADHD).
“I was specifically drawn to this topic due to being at an all-girls school,” she says. “Many girls have trouble receiving an adequate treatment plan because ADHD presents differently with girls; they tend to be less physically hyperactive.”
Amonda’s persuasive speech was about cobalt mining practices in the Congo, feeding an insatiable Western thirst for lithium ion batteries for electronics. “We’re the direct cause of child labour and the continued exploitation of workers,” she says.
Emma, who excelled in impromptu speaking and debating, praised coaches Owen Williams and Grace Nolan for imparting a key secret for debating excellence.
“If you believe in what you’re saying, others will as well,” she says. “Impromptu speaking went from being my worst category to my best. You have to be poised and just let the passion come through.”
All the students praised the support of Branksome Hall for valuing the debating program so highly and ensuring that it flourishes.
“We are incredibly proud of these students,” says coach Owen Williams. “They have worked extremely hard, and are very talented. What's more, they are four of the nicest students on the public speaking circuit. Branksome Hall could not be better represented at these tournaments.”