The National Tournament Experience: A Journey of Intellectual Growth

In mid-June, Bethany sent two students to the National Speech and Debate Tournament in Phoenix, Arizona. Nico Brenneman-Ochoa and Ian McHugh both made it to the national tournament in the Lincoln-Douglas Debate. The national tournament gave both participants a transformative experience, fostering intellectual growth and challenging their perspectives on vital societal issues.

The tournament structure was demanding, with six preliminary rounds and a requirement to win eight out of twelve judge ballots to advance to elimination rounds.. By the end of the first two days of competition, the original 300 competitors had been reduced to 60 in the intense Lincoln-Douglas category. 

After being eliminated from Lincoln-Douglas Nico and Ian participated in Extemporaneous Debate as a supplement to further sharpen their critical thinking and persuasive skills. With 20 minutes to prepare a case, they embraced the challenge of formulating compelling arguments with limited preparation time. This event allowed them to represent Bethany in a different format, showcasing their ability to analyze and communicate effectively -- and quickly.

This year's Lincoln-Douglas Debate topic was “Resolved: Government employees have a moral obligation to leak classified information to address injustice.” Nico and Ian worked closely with other national qualifiers from Chesterton High School, exchanging ideas and resources to improve their chances of success. This collaborative effort contributed to a more comprehensive understanding of the topic, ensuring they were well-prepared to engage in meaningful debate.

Participants presented compelling arguments for both sides of the debate, shedding light on this issue's complexities. Advocating for leaking classified information emphasized the importance of exposing government wrongdoings to promote legitimacy and transparency while opposing highlighted the potential risks to government stability and national security. This spirited debate underscored the importance of defining terms such as “justice” and “morality” to provide clarity and focus to the discourse. 

Beyond the debates, the national tournament offered a unique platform for participants to connect with peers from diverse backgrounds. Engaging in conversations about shared interests, exploring different perspectives, and building lasting friendships were invaluable aspects of the experience. Representing Bethany and the home state of Indiana instilled a sense of pride and unity among their debaters as they reserved a ‘Hoosier’ table in the cafeteria to eat together. 

Highlights of the tournament were supporting two students from Chesterton who made it past the preliminary rounds in the Lincoln-Douglas Debate and cheering a speech team from Plymouth High School who made it to the semifinals.  (Plymouth was named a School of Excellence, placing in the top 20 schools in the country.)

Visiting Phoenix was a lot of fun. They hiked in the desert, ate at great restaurants, and took a Waymo taxi back to their hotel, a driverless taxi offered in the Phoenix area.