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The Student News Site of Buckingham Browne & Nichols School

The Vanguard

The Student News Site of Buckingham Browne & Nichols School

The Vanguard

Debaters bring home hardware from World Championship

Graham, Chloe, and Aaron compete for two weeks in South Africa
Chloe Taft
Aaron, Chloe, and Graham stand outside the World Debate Championship in South Africa.

More than eight thousand miles away in Durban, South Africa, Graham Bateman ’23, Chloe Taft ’25, and Aaron Rai ’24 competed as part of a U.S. delegation against teams from 70 countries in the World Individual Debate and Public Speaking Championship (WIDPSC), the world’s largest high school debate tournament held from March 26 to April 2.

The three debaters competed in four events in the advanced category: interpretive reading, impromptu speaking, parliamentary debate, and either an after-dinner or persuasive speech. Graham placed first in the after-dinner competition, in which speakers deliver a speech as a character they have created, and Chloe placed second in the impromptu category, where speakers deliver a three-to-five-minute speech inspired by one of the three prompts they received two minutes earlier.

Their journey started at the yearly Debating Association of New England Independent Schools (DANEIS) tournaments. Chloe and Aaron qualified for the World Championship by placing first in one of the seven DANEIS tournaments. The eighth tournament of the year, Internationals, sent the top five finishers to Worlds, which included Graham. They joined nine other students from schools across the United States to represent their country in the World Championship.

To prepare for the tournament, the school debate team participated in Zoom debates with other students from the U.S. who had qualified. The debaters also practiced year-round during Community Activity Blocks and on Wednesday mornings before school.

On March 24, after traveling for 27 hours, the team and their coach, Talayah Hudson, arrived in Durban, where they rested for the following day, Aaron said.

“We had that day to sleep and relax, so the jetlag was cured pretty much instantly,” he said.

The preliminary competitions, consisting of two rounds of each of the four events, began the next day. These debates concerned issues such as climate change, the economy, and global citizenship. They ended each day with a dinner with the other debaters. There was one day when the team went to the Nelson Mandela Capture Site. As the tournament neared, Graham’s nerves were building, he said.

“I was nervous the first time I did my after-dinner speech because although I’d shared it with friends and family and they thought it was funny, the actual debate room is entirely new, and it’s hard to predict how much the audience will laugh.”

Graham and Aaron, who wrote after-dinner speeches in which they assumed the roles of a tech professional and a CIA agent respectively, had to adapt their speeches so that they would resonate with people from multiple cultures and countries, Graham said. Joking about labor, he wanted his insights about corporate hypocrisy to resonate with all, he said.“

An international audience is not going to get your references, so I had to make social commentaries that I felt were not only relevant in the United States, but in the world at large.”

Aaron said he earned a laugh when he instructed “people to leave the rooms if they had to take a call because the CIA has heard enough of their private conversations already.”

Chloe focused on an impromptu speech, in which she used her passion to differentiate herself from the other competitors, she said.

“I was also very vulnerable, which I think is one of my really biggest strengths. I think that if I had done anything, but be myself, it would have been a really bad speech.”

WIDPSC is a unique opportunity to build friendships with international debaters, Chloe said.

“I have really, really close friends now that are all across New England, the United States, and the world,” she said.

The friends that the debaters made on this trip helped them with their jokes and cheered them on, cultivating a special connection, Chloe said.

“People really want each other to succeed, and I think one of the best examples of that is when Graham gave his final after-dinner speech during the Grand Finals, the U.S. delegation all stood right in the front, and we were just screaming the entire time.”

The team hopes to develop the skills they learned to further strengthen the school’s Speech and Debate team and send another round of debaters to next year’s WIDPSC team, Ms. Hudson said.

“I hope that this serves as motivation for them to continue with debate and to implement all that they’ve learned and to become better debaters, better speakers, while also helping train new debaters coming up every year.”

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About the Contributor
Chloe Taft
Chloe Taft, Editor in Chief
  I’m Chloe, the Editor in Chief of Volume 53 of The Vanguard. I’m so grateful for this role, and I can’t wait for you to read all eight editions! When I’m not editing articles, you can usually find me rock climbing, reading a classic, getting ice cream with friends, or perpetually rewatching episodes of Gilmore Girls.

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