01 Apr ESU – Churchill Public Speaking Regional Semi-Final
Written by Eve year 10, edited by Mrs Nguyen
On Wednesday 17th March, many people would have been celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day, but Lola, Callum and I were celebrating for a different reason entirely. We were celebrating the fact that, all of us (the Dream Team) had got through to the English-Speaking Union debate semi-finals and would be participating that very evening alongside some amazing competitors, with the likes of Concorde College and Newcastle-Under Lyme School, and many more.
Due to the current circumstances of Covid-19 restrictions, all ESU debates took place over the virtual platform of Zoom. I had personally never used Zoom before, but luckily no computers died and no mics were muted! It was amazing that despite the ongoing national lockdown, the three of us still got to participate and enjoy such an exciting evening of debating, talking about topics of our choices, and I’m sure those who were present there would agree with me when I say we are very grateful to everyone involved in making this possible.
To clarify, ESU stands for English Speaking Union, a national charity with a simple mission which is, “to give young people the speaking and listening skills and cultural understanding they need to thrive”. It was founded in 1918, more than a century ago and one of its first Chairs was Sir Winston Churchill (1921-1925).
To start with, at 4:15pm, we all logged onto the meeting and already, were met with some of our competitors saying their ‘Hellos’ and ‘Good afternoons’. Soon enough, the debate was underway; we were all immediately stunned by the incredible standard of schools that we were competing against. We were in awe of the diverse topics that all school teams had chosen, and how passionately some spoke on them. One of the topics was, “Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains.” (Jean-Jacques Rousseau)
This is how the debate works – in each team you have a Chairperson who introduces and concludes whilst keeping the debate flowing – this was Lola’s role. You also have a Speaker, who you could say is the main event, talking for 5 minutes about the topic they have chosen – this for us, was Callum. And finally, you have the Questioner who listens intently to the Speaker and asks them questions on their chosen topic. This helps to clear things up for the audience and to learn a bit more about the topic being debated – this was my job. But here’s the twist! The Chairperson and the Questioner don’t stick with their teams, they get paired up with the Speaker of another school to form a new team. Similarly, the Speaker gets paired up with the Chair and Questioner of an opposing team.
Soon enough, it was Callum’s turn to deliver his speech on the topic of “We have a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws- Martin Luther King Jr.” Callum’s passion and knowledge clearly showed, touching on the tangible margin between just and unjust laws. Callum used a part of the Holocaust as an example. Another focal point of Callum’s argument was the horrendous treatment from the Chinese government towards the Uighurs – one of the Chinese ethnic minorities. Many of us in the audience learnt so much from Callum’s speech to realise the living conditions of the Uighurs.
On reflection, Callum said:
“My experience of the ESU debate was great. It was enjoyable, exciting and informative. It allowed me and my team to learn a lot about a wide variety of topics through others speeches and researching our own. I personally loved it, I love to listen to others’ speeches, also I loved making and performing my own. It allowed me to have a great experience where I got to learn teamwork, public speaking, working under pressure and writing my own speech. I am very thankful to my team Eve and Lola, Mrs Nguyen and Whitley Academy for this opportunity.”
Well said Callum! I agree.
But we couldn’t relax yet. Next Lola and I joined forces alongside Advay from Newcastle-under-Lyme school, to introduce and question him on his topic of “Medicinal cannabis should be legal.” Lola began with a pitch perfect introduction, using the quote from Princess Diana herself: “You can be as naughty as you can, just don’t get caught!”
Lola’s thoughts on the evening were as follows…
“I was so nervous that I couldn’t really listen to anyone else’s speech in the time before my turn, I had practiced my speech at least 8 or 9 times, although I was more confident in myself this time than I was in my last. When my turn finally came, I was half expecting to get my words wrong under the pressure, but I was very pleased with how it went, the judges were really proud of our work and suggested that we deliver the speeches to our School. If I could sum up that night in a sentence, I would say that it definitely left me feeling like I wanted to do more public speaking competitions, even though it was so nerve-wracking!”
Next, Advay hit us with an informative speech bursting with knowledge (he actually ended up winning best speaker. Well-done Advay!) Then, it was my turn to question him on what he had just enlightened us on, and I did just that! Since we were the 3rd team to go, I got to see a few of the other questioners and was inspired by the standard in which I had the opportunity to compete beside. It was incredible to see how interested everyone was in each other’s performance and topics. I was honoured to have been able to get there. And, similarly to Lola, it left me feeling inspired to carry on my debating journey and get involved in more.
Almost in the blink of an eye, our part was over and all we could do was sit back and observe the rest of the debate. At around 6:20pm, the judges went away to deliberate and would soon return with the results!
Now it was our half hour wait full of nerves and excitement. We really felt the effects of butterflies in our stomachs. I can’t talk for Lola or Callum, but I certainly enjoyed a lovely cup of tea during the wait, living up to my British stereotypeJ.
The esteemed judges then returned back from their Zoom breakout room to deliver the results. Although we didn’t win anything, we all left feeling proud of our achievements. After all this was the first time we had actually competed in a second round of any debate, not only that but we were the youngest ones present!
In these days of restriction where physical human contacts are distant memories, it was a massively positive opportunity for us all (including our parents and carers who were sitting there in the background, listening and watching us talking) to at least experience our mental and emotional contacts with young people around us.
To sum up, the evening was very enjoyable and an excellent opportunity to learn, grow and better ourselves as debaters! We are all very grateful to the ESU for organizing such an event, and all the judges for giving up their time. As well as all the teachers and students for making the debate so fascinating! And the last thank-you goes to you for reading this blog and I hope you enjoyed it! 😊
“If you can speak, you can influence. If you can influence, you can change lives.”