by Yilin Liang
Photo by Victor Kwok
Two Speech and Debate club teams will be competing in the National Speech and Debate Tournament from June 13 to June 18 in Kansas City, Missouri. Seniors Pamudh Kariyawasam and Kuleen Nimkar will compete as one team, and sophomores Clare Shuey and Wendy Wu will compete as the other.
The Speech and Debate club attends four to five League Tournaments and a few Invitational Tournaments each year. League Tournaments are open to and held at schools in Santa Clara County while Invitational Tournaments are hosted by colleges such as Stanford University and include a wider variety of competing schools. At League Tournaments, parents judge the debates, while in Invitational Tournaments, college students involved in Speech and Debate make up the panel of judges.
In order to qualify for the National Tournament, the two teams debated in the National Qualifiers Tournament, where Kariyawasam and Nimkar placed first, and Shuey and Wu placed second.
Both teams will be competing in Policy debate, one of four forms of debate that requires a large amount of research before tournaments. At the beginning of the year, the National Forensics League issued a resolution about increasing social services for people living in poverty. This resolution deals with a problem under the government and the teams must write a plan they believe will solve the issue. Before the tournament, the two teams must look for an existing social service program and find a way to reform it. They must also research reasons why their plan is the most efficient, and why a plan presented by an opposing team would be less efficient. During the debate, the teams take turns promoting their plan to resolve the issue and try and refute their opponents’ plan.
The two teams have been preparing their cases and improving their speech technique. “We wrote our case at the beginning of the year,” Shuey said. “As other teams have been talking to each other and talking to us, my partner and I have been editing our case.” Throughout the year, Shuey and Wu have been learning a method of debating called “fast debate”, which involves learning how to speak quickly to allow as much information as possible in their allotted time. As a result, they are also learning how to write notes quickly in case their opponents use this tactic. Shuey and Wu have also been observing other teams at tournaments. “We were sent as freshmen to National Qualifiers,” Wu said. “Since then, we’ve gained lots of new skills.”
However, despite their ongoing research, the weeks leading up to the Nationals Tournament will be busiest for the two teams. “Up until now, we’ve outlined what we need to do,” coach Hoon Ko said. “Every week we meet at least once and go through our checklist.”
During the year, Kariyawasam and Nimkar split up the research and speaking during the tournament, but both contribute differently to the team. “We balance out nicely because Pamudh appeals well to emotions, while I focus on logic,” Nimkar said. “Basically he takes the ethos and pathos, and I take the logos.” Shuey and Wu’s friendship is also useful to them during their debate. “We’re friends, so we understand how we normally are outside of debate,” Wu said. “We also set each other up for the next speech. For example, I will ask questions I know are addressed in Clare’s next speech.”
Shuey and Wu predict that the National Tournament will go in their favor. “We’re hoping to do really well,” Wu said. “But above all else, it will be a fun and educational experience and it will help us prep for next year.”
Kariyawasam also believes the school’s teams will do well. “It will definitely be different because there’s people from across the nation and they’re not all Californians,” he said. “But I think my partner and I and the other team will do pretty well. Our league is by far the most competitive and at National Qualifiers; we beat out Bellarmine and Lealand, the two most competitive teams in our league. Since there’s a lower caliber of competition, I think we’ll do pretty well.” Ko agrees. “We have a disadvantage because we don’t debate as much and attend as many tournaments, but we could do pretty well because we will be prepared,” he said.
For seniors Kariyawasam and Nimkar, the Nationals Tournament will be their last high school debate tournament. “It will be sad leaving Gunn, but I’ve had a good career so far and I did pretty okay for myself,” Kariyawasam said. It is possible that Kariyawasam and Nimkar will continue Speech and Debate in college, though the commitment would most likely be costly. “It’s more money requiring since all the good tournaments are in the East Coast,” Kariyawasam said. “It’s quite a flight from Berkeley to Yale every weekend.” Nimkar agrees. “College debate is different than high school debate,” he said. “It’s an even bigger time commitment.”