06 Oct US Embassy Debate
The Frankly Speaking Competition 2020
By Rhys, Lola and Eve – Young Reporters
Friday 28th February 2020 – the February half-term break week in Coventry…
Barely able to keep our eyes open, we arrived in Coventry train station at 6:45am. We found our platform and stood in the passenger waiting room, struggling to keep still. The early morning breezes were bitterly cold, but that did not deter our spirits. We were on our way to a prestigious public speaking competition in London!
At 7:11 our Year 10/11 team, consisting of Duncan and Ciaran, our Year 12/13 team, consisting of Ketsia and Jamila, our teacher, Mrs Nguyen, and our two bloggers, Rhys and Lola boarded the Avanti West Coast train, sitting down just in time for it to pull away.
Almost 1.5 hours later, we arrived at the Benjamin Franklin House, the only surviving home that Benjamin Franklin, the world-renowned diplomat and political philosopher, lived from 1757 – 1775. It was magnificent! Tucked away on Craven Street and only a few steps away from Charing Cross Underground station, it looks like any other house in London, however, it had a hidden significance to it.
After a smooth journey to Benjamin Franklin’s House, we took some time to wander around this magnificent building to explore everything around us.
Some of the amazing facts we have learnt included:
– The House is now a Grade 1 architectural listing building and was built circa 1730!
– The House has got 14 fireplaces and a central staircase which Benjamin claimed to use for daily exercise!
9:20am – A loud knock on the door began our journey with the Frankly Speaking Competition 2020. All of the teams were patiently waiting, ready for the first debating round to commence. After a short introduction with some house-keeping messages from Miss Eleanor Hamblen – the Education Manager of Benjamin Franklin House, we dispersed to our allocated rooms but fortunately for the year 10/11 Whitley team, the rival team was still stuck in the hectic traffic of London, hence this resulted in the team having a bit more time to prepare for their speeches.
The ‘extended mace’ format, which is popular with university debating societies, was used. The first heat consisted of two teams of two: proposers and opposers. In a way, you could be in either the proposition or opposition side of the debate.
The topic of this round was: “This House believes it is more important to teach Science than Art in schools”.
In this round our year 10/11 team were the opposers, which meant they got to watch and wait for the first speech, delivered by the opposite team. Then, it was Duncan’s turn. After the other team’s second proposer delivered their speech, it was Ciaran’s time to shine.
Sitting in the historic Medical History Room, we were in awe of everyone’s performance: knowledgeable, articulate and extremely well-spoken.
Unfortunately, the results were not given out straight away, everyone was left hoping for the best.
We made a dash upstairs to watch the year 12/13’s debate for heat 2, where the topic of debate was around animal testing. To our surprise, we realised that our Year 12 team was the opposition yet again. It was particularly challenging for Jamila and Ketsia to argue with their opponents and agreed that scientific testing on animals was OK!
Facing a very strong opposition team, the competition was challenging, but our year 12 students dealt with it well. They performed brilliantly, answering the other team’s questions with ease!
After a long gruelling wait, the judges were ready to announce the teams going through to the semi-finals! First, were the announcements for 10/11. We had gotten through!
But no time to celebrate, there was still the 12/13 category. Just when it looked like we’d end the journey there, Miss Eleanor Hamblen – the Education Manager of Benjamin Franklin House, announced that our Post 16 team had gotten through to the semi-final!
Straight away, we were told our rooms and flipping a coin to see who would be the proposers and who would be the opposers. Both teams were given the role of opposition, (significantly harder to perform, but at the end of the day at least we could be experts at opposing J). Our topic was “community service is a better punishment than prison for non-violent crimes”. Both teams performed excellently and, with no hesitation we were back to our waiting room for the results!
The results of semi-finals
After a lengthy wait and anticipating what was to come, the results were ready. Our little hearts jumped with joy when we were informed that our Year 11 team would go to the Final round at the US Embassy London!
After a quick lunch at the Benjamin Franklin House and a dash through the hectic London tube system, we finally arrived at the US Embassy, London. It is a brand new building located in the Nine Elms area of Wandsworth London.
After going through the airport-style security, we got into the massively spacious building, we hung up our coats and headed to our preparation room, helping ourselves to refreshments. You could easily figure out that Duncan and Ciaran were nervous and really wanted to do well.
2:45pm – after a short introduction from Miss Hamblen, the teams were given the topics and had 30 minutes to prepare themselves.
We were encouraged to join the team and support Duncan and Ciaran to prepare for their speeches. Our whole group gathered together around a big table and discussed the topic with our speakers. However, half an hour doesn’t seem very long if you have to come up with an entire speech and prepare yourselves for the floor debate with direct questions from the audience who came from different walks of life. So, before they knew it they were up there finishing their debate about “digital technology is benefitting children’s lives”.
There were extremely powerful moments to see how articulate Duncan and Ciaran were to deliver their speeches and to answer all the questions from the audience.
Duncan and Ciaran did so well, that they managed to win the entire debate, with Ciaran coming runner-up as best individual!
After a thrilling visit to London we headed back home, via tubes and trains. Reflecting on the day, we thought that we had done exceptionally well. However, we still could barely keep our eyes open despite the thrill of the day.
Talking to our teacher, Mrs Nguyen, we realised the journey to achieve the success of today had taken Duncan and Ciaran five years, from their first time of doing public speaking in front of an adult audience.
We hope you had as much fun reading this, as we did actually being there!
“If the fire in your heart is strong enough, it will burn away any obstacles that come your way.”
Suzy Kassem (American Poet, Writer and Philosopher)