Exemplary Debaters: They’re Journey to the NH Forensics Tournament Finals

By Amanda Gonzalez and Laura Aybar (11th-Grade) on October 11

It is no secret that Public Forum Debate (PFD) is hard work, not only during the tournament, but before – especially before. Weeks of strenuous, in depth research done for every possible position and argument, making sure that none is stated without warrant, and that when the time comes, it proves irrefutable. While this might sound like a nightmare a teenager would never voluntarily partake in, thousands around the world prove this assumption undeniably wrong.  

Intervarsity’s finalists, Amelia Andujar and Anna Aquino, debaters that caught the eyes of many because of their proficiency and professionalism throughout the debate, in the past New Horizons Forensics Tournament 2018-2019, have some things to tell us about debating and their experience in the matter. Their knowledge in the subject brought them to where they are now, but everything wasn’t as neat and impeccable as it is now.

Andujar and Aquino, share her journey throughout her debating experience with us; Andujar, the first speaker, said “I started debating 2 years ago, when I was in 9th grade. In my school at the time the debate was an exclusive activity for students of the eleventh and twelve grades but my coach at the time saw me speak in an oratory class and asked me to join the club. It was very, very special, even to start was a very hard road. In my first round I refused to debate, I had an anxiety attack and I sat for 20 minutes in a corner of the room on the floor to mourn a round that hadn’t even started yet. My coach, who was present, sat next to me to wait for me to calm down, and then he stopped me to debate. I could not be more grateful for that little push because I think I would have given up at that moment.” Aquino, the second speaker, said that “I started debating in 8th grade, and my first experience with the debate was Harvard 2016. I really liked it and it was an enriching and learning experience; however, I found it very stressful, and to be honest, our training was not the best, seeing as it was a very new club at school at that time, so I decided to take a year off, and I did not debate in 9th. I returned to the debate in 10th and found an improved club and much more organized and centralized, which helped me fall in love again with the activity. I have continued to debate ever since, and the truth is that I find it a great opportunity as well as to use techniques of public speaking, quick thinking, analysis and questioning that are useful for a lifetime, and above all learning about important topics.”

The team shared their experience In the New Horizons Forensics Tournament 2018-2019 describing it as “In truth, our experience in the New Horizons tournament was very meaningful and rewarding.” She continued by stating that given the very talented debaters that participated it was always a very welcoming environment. Both Andujar and Aquino repeatedly expressed their gratitude and admiration of each other and their skills as debaters, cooperators, and most importantly childhood friends. Stating that, “we especially loved working as partners, we feel like we really pushed each other out of our comfort zone.” Throughout this interview we were clearly able to observe their passion for debate, and their actions in enlisting as an independent team demonstrated their eagerness to succeed and perform; realizing that although they may be from different schools; their dynamic duo surpasses all school emblems. 

Both debaters believe that debate is a form of expression and a performance that emits something they like to call “Intellectual adrenaline”. As we heard this phrase, as debaters ourselves, we immediately identified with what they referred to with such fervor. The passionate debater is no stranger to the rush one gets after a round where all your knowledge on the topic, argumentation, and strategy is displayed and tested with a team of equals.  They cited this as one of their main motivations on pursuing a career that implements Public Forum Debate and the skills that are implemented and gained from it. These included political sciences, psychology, law, and acting; careers where they will show off their practice in debate and similar activities.

Given their experience in international debate tournaments and camps based in Harvard University in the City of Boston, we asked them to give their perspective of Public Forum Debate in the Dominican Republic. They expressed that, “Debate in the Dominican Republic is in the way of developing and it has the potential to have an extremely positive impact in the country. By developing the critical thinking of young people, we foster a future of professionals who know how to argue and defend ideas but also know how to put themselves in the position of the other and understand how they think. I believe that this mutual understanding and eloquence is something that every successful professional needs, and that eventually, will facilitate the country’s development.”

To conclude the very informative and inspiring interview we thought it would be a great opportunity to ask experienced and prized debaters for any token of advice for other debaters. They started off by saying, “take advantage of everything that involves debating. Take advantage of the given topic to become a professional in a subject that you barely knew, and to not let lack of knowledge cost you a round; take the opportunity to meet the community of debaters that is composed of some of the best people I know, and where I have met not only some of my best friends, but people I wouldn’t of ever encountered anywhere that wasn’t debate. Finally, take advantage to build yourself. Personally, I found my confidence, passion and self-esteem in debate.  She continued by saying that whoever has the courage to partake in debate, will be an all-around better person and intellectual for it.

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