Azusa Pacific’s 10-member speech and debate team rose through the ranks with impressive speed and success in last fall’s tournaments. Beginning at the novice level, they took first, second, and third place at the Pasadena City College tournament in October, closing out the competition. Moving up to the junior division, they repeated the feat in the November tournament at New York City’s Pace University, earning the only finalist positions at the event. Later that month, they competed at the senior varsity level and finished the season by closing out the tournament at California State University, Northridge.
“The students’ success came as a result of their hard work and dedication,” said Amy Jung, director of speech and debate. “The victories are even more significant given the team’s relative inexperience. Most of our members are new to debate and just learning the strategies. The time-intensive process calls for rigorous preparation in theory, philosophy, persuasive speech, research, and organization. These students gain valuable, firsthand experience applying the concepts they learn in the classroom, while engaging in real-world issues.”
Throughout the year, the team participated in individual and team competitions following the Lincoln-Douglas format, which provides a topic for research and debate. The 2013 resolution for intercollegiate teams stated, “The United States government should substantially reform elementary and/or secondary education in the U.S.,” and invited responses from debaters across the country. “Our students approached the topic from all angles, conducting research, planning and practicing attacks, and investigating the opposition,” said Jung.
“Competing in debate keeps my mind stimulated and challenges me to focus on world events rather than tuning them out,” said Cassie Marshall ’17, a freshman with no prior debate experience competing against seasoned seniors. “Debate taught me that we are all here to exchange ideas and learn how to present our side of an argument. What I will take from this approach, far beyond debate tournaments, is knowing how to be respectful when sharing my opposing opinions with someone else.”
The 2014 season began in January with bronze- and gold-medal wins at the Orange Coast College tournament under the direction of new debate coach Joshua Kammert. “We strive every week to do better than the week before, and to always remember the team rules: have fun, learn something from every round, be polite, and above all, uphold God First,” said Kammert. “I feel so much pride when judges and coaches from other teams tell me how respectful, well spoken, and happy APU students are. The skills they learn here far outweigh the accolades they earn. The ability to hear an argument, quickly assess and respond to it with intelligence, conduct research effectively, and speak in public confidently are skills that, according to a December 27, 2013, forbes.com article, will boost their value to employers by as much as 50 percent.”
The momentum of the team's success and rapport is building toward the last tournament of the school year—Christian College Nationals. “This tournament, which began at APU 17 years ago, brings together college and university teams of faith from around the nation to glorify God through excellence in speaking and debating,” said Jung. “In the end, this is not about trophies. God is preparing the minds, hearts, and mouths of these future ambassadors to the world.”