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Branksome Hall’s Anna Gage Crowned World Champion at 37th Worlds

When 117 of the best speakers in the world come together, there’s really no disputing what will happen: a world-class debate. This year’s World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships (WIDPSC), hosted by Canberra Girls Grammar School in Canberra, Australia from April 14-19, was no exception. The 37th annual international English language debating and public speaking competition saw high school students from 12 countries skillfully delivering speeches and arguments across four events—Debating, Impromptu Speaking, Interpretive Reading and a Prepared Speech (either Persuasive Speaking or After-Dinner Speaking).
Grade 12 Branksome Hall student Anna Gage made it to the finals in all four events, with a persuasive speech on "evergreening,” which addressed how pharmaceutical companies prolong patents to vital medication, and a humorous interpretive reading from a passage in Ellen Degeneres’ book Seriously… I'm Kidding. On April 19, after four days of intense competition and based on her results across all four categories, Anna was named this year’s overall World champion, the first time a Branksome student has won since 2010, when Zeenia FRAMROZE’11 took the top spot. 

“The public speaking circuit is such a special place, but the Worlds tournament in particular has had such a great impact on my life,” notes Anna. “Beyond the calibre of the speakers—which is incredible and, frankly, jaw-dropping—every single person you meet is friendly, entertaining and extremely willing to have an hour-long conversation with you about anything and everything. My competitors have become some of my closest friends and being able to reunite with them on the other side of the world, while seeing what they do best, is an experience like no other.” 

Grade 11 student Helen Ziomecki also made it to the finals this year, and working with both Anna and Helen to prepare them for the competition was Grace Nolan, Head Debate Coach and Senior & Middle School Individuals and Societies Teacher. Nolan, who has been helping Branksome students prepare for Worlds since 2019, describes the championships as “the Olympics of Debate and Public Speaking.” She notes, “You have more than one hundred of the best speakers from all over the world competing for the top spot. It not only tests your prepared pieces, but also tests how quick you think within a short period of time, as well as working with a partner from a different country. The key to winning Worlds is to be the most consistent across eight rounds.”
When asked what specifically led to Anna’s win this year, Nolan said, “One of the keys to Anna's success—besides being absolutely brilliant—is that she went into Worlds with the most positive frame of mind. She embodied the mission of the Branksome Hall Debate and Public Speaking Programme—make friends, learn something and have the best time. Anna was incredibly well prepared, and as such, was relaxed when we arrived in Canberra.”

In addition to out-debating the world’s best, Anna is outgoing Student Government Prefect and will be graduating from Branksome in May, serving as this year’s Valedictorian. She is also the recipient of a prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholarship and will be starting her studies in Public Policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the fall.  

In reflecting on her experience at Worlds this year, Anna says, “Public speaking and debate have improved my resiliency and my critical thinking, teaching me how to clash with ideas instead of people. My only regret? Not having started competing earlier.” Congratulations to Anna on this outstanding accomplishment, to Helen for her excellent results this year, and to Ms. Nolan for all her support.

We wish to acknowledge this land on which Branksome operates. For thousands of years, it has been the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit River. Today, this meeting place is still the home to many Indigenous peoples from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work and go to school on this land.

Setting the new standard for girls' education everywhere takes collective action. From all of us.