Each year at the Heart of Texas Invitational at the St. Mark’s School of Texas, a senior debater is selected to deliver a speech at the Sunday morning breakfast. Quarterfinalist teams, Sophomore Hoe Down competitors, and their coaches are invited to attend. This year’s speaker—joining an impressive list of previous honorees—was Evan McCarty from Mountain Brook High School in Birmingham, Alabama. The text of his speech—about the importance of friendship in debate—is available below the fold.
Senior Speaker Address
October 16, 2011
I hope everyone’s doing well this morning – I’ll try to not take up too much time because I know from experience that nothing is worse than being kept captive by a speaker when you really, REALLY need to cut that one last politics update before the next out-round. I’d like to begin by thanking the Acolytes for giving me this great honor to speak before you all, because I know there were many great choices among the class of 2012. I’d also like to thank Tim Mahoney, Jason Peterson, and the St. Mark’s School of Texas for hosting this wonderful tournament – specifically for helping me by giving me a loaner laptop when mine met its unfortunate demise after Round 1. I’m hoping I’ll get to come here against as a judge in the future.
I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to talk about today until a good friend reminded me of a comment I made at camp my junior year. During one of our lectures, our lab leader asked us why people debate. This was a theory lecture so obviously the answers were supposed to be something along the lines of “fairness, competition, education, research skills, or critical thinking.” But I, not really thinking along those terms, raised by hand and said feebly “friendship.” We all laughed, and still today I laugh at myself for saying that, because the idea of someone using friendship as a standard on a theory debate is pretty preposterous. But despite that not being the answer that was expected, I still stand by it as being the correct one: One of the primary reasons why I debate is the friendship. Don’t get me wrong – the thrill of the game and the thrill of devising the best strategy possible against that team you just HAVE to beat and the thrill of ending the day victorious are some of the best feelings in the world, but what I value more than all the trophies I’ve acquired is the friends I’ve made in this activity. Some people’s best friends live down the street, a few blocks over, or maybe across town. Mine live across the nation in places like California, Texas, Illinois, Minnesota, Washington, Georgia, and Florida, and I would have never met any of these truly amazing people were it not for this activity.
Maybe this is a little too much self-praise, but we debaters are SMART. This isn’t the type of intelligence that is reflected on the SAT or on your report card; the unique type of smart that debaters have is an undying motivation to learn more. I’ve never encountered someone in debate who is content knowing just the minimum required knowledge on any subject. We always seem to have a Wikipedia or Google tab open on our computers, ready to look up anything that we don’t understand. The result is that we are a community of people who are always ready to have an intellectually stimulation conversation. I have spoken with my debate peers for hours about topics ranging from government healthcare to the merits of U.S. primacy. And no, those weren’t discussions that occurred in 2009 when we ran the Healthcare DA or a heg bad debate on the military presence topic. These were conversations we just chose to have because that’s what we really enjoy doing. I’ve never met people like this outside of debate, and it’s one of the unique qualities of participants in this activity that make them so special to me.
But we are not always that serious… obviously you coaches know that perhaps more often than not we’re a little TOO silly. Marc, Hurwitz, I’m looking at you. The second thing that draws me to debaters is how FUNNY they are. Debaters can make each other laugh for hours on end. Given, I think that most of the things that we think are funny probably aren’t actually funny to 99% of the country, but they don’t know what they’re missing out on. I’m never going to forget the laughter we shared over things like Greenstein’s consult NATO and theory songs, or the constant jokes my friends and I tell about how I’m convinced the Jarvis card answers most any K. Despite being involved in what I believe to be the most intense activity high school-ers can participate in, we always find a time to fit in a good laugh.
But what has truly meant so much to me personally about my debate peers is the tolerance they demonstrate towards others. Debaters will accept you no matter who you are or how you choose to live your life, and that, especially among high school-ers, is a rare and precious quality that is so often lacking. I know that without debate I wouldn’t have yet come to terms with who I truly am. Debate friends will always love you no matter who you choose to be.
So here’s my short impact calculus about why friendship truly is one of the most important values of debate. When you win an important round, you can feel a thrill that’s matched by nothing else, but that moment is fleeting. 20 years from now none of us are going to still feel the thrill from that semifinal round we won on the close 2-1, or the time we won with that brand new tiny aff that didn’t link to any disads, or even the time we won top speaker at a huge tournament. What I do think will be lasting, however, is the relationships we’ve made in this activity. I’ve jokingly said to my friends before that I think we’ll be “friends for 70 years,” an arbitrary length of time I chose at a whim. We now toss that comment around a lot as a joke in conversation, but I still intend to make it happen. I truly believe the bonds I’ve made with people in the debate community will endure throughout my adult life, and I hope many of you feel the same about your friendships. What we share is too special to let die when we finish high school and college debate.
The people filling this room are some of the nicest in the country, and I’m truly grateful that I’ve had the honor of getting to know you all and participate in this activity with you. Thank you, and good luck in the Quarterfinals!