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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Eleven students compete at Speech and Debate Team nationals, three students place

Several students traveled to Illinois to compete in Speech and Debate nationals this year. (Photo by Josh Hale ’23)

Last week, Lafayette’s Speech and Debate Team traveled to Illinois State University to compete in the National Forensic Association (NFA) national championship. 

Several Lafayette students advanced far in the competition. Kelly Mwaamba ‘22, captain of the team, advanced further in two competitions than any Lafayette student has gone before, and Baris Yazici ‘25 won the national novice championship. 

To be able to compete in Speech and Debate nationals, speakers and debaters alike must qualify at a previous tournament during the school year. This year, twelve members of the team qualified for the national competition. 

The speech team competes in 11 events that span three categories. Mwaamba placed in the top six in the country in two events, prose interpretation and persuasive speaking, placing fifth in the former and sixth in the latter. 

Prose interpretation requires a speaker to perform a piece of existing literature that was not designed to be performed. Mwaamba’s prose interpretation came from the point of view of a donkey.

“The entire speech is given from a donkey’s perspective—it’s a speech about learning the true costs of knowledge,” she explained. 

For her persuasive speaking event, Mwaamba spoke about the violence surrounding police dogs.

“When we think about police violence, we often think about riot gear and restraint tactics and firearms, but my speech talks about the use of police dogs, how they are falsely weaponized, how they are abused within the system and what we can do to reform that,” she said. 

Shirley Liu ‘23 broke into octofinals, or the top 48 in the country, in the rhetorical criticism category. Rhetorical criticism is a platform speaking event in which speakers analyze an artifact through the lens of a communication theory. Liu focused their speech on a short story entitled “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” by Isabel Fall. 

“The story is about a futuristic society where a woman gets assigned her gender as an attack helicopter. It’s a story that got a lot of backlash from trans activists when in reality, it was written by a trans woman as a record and a reflection of her identity,” Liu explained. “I analyzed the backlash against Isabell Fall, the author of the story, and what we can learn from that incident about criticism and especially criticism against marginalized groups like queer communities.”

Jacob Moldover ‘24 advanced deep in both speech and debate events. On the speech side, Moldover advanced to the quarterfinals in the extemporaneous speaking event. In extemporaneous speaking, or extemp, speakers draw questions about current events and have thirty minutes to prepare a seven-minute speech. 

Each speaker can use only one notecard, so a large majority of the speech is “off the cuff,” according to Moldover. He covered a variety of topics throughout the rounds of competition, including one regarding Tesla pursuing lithium mining in Brazil. 

Moldover also advanced to the top 16 in the debate competition. For debaters, the topic is decided at the beginning of the season by the debate community. This year’s topic was counterterrorism. Depending on the round, participants had to argue either for or against the curtailment of United States counterterrorism efforts. 

In his first year on the team, Yazici became the national novice champion. According to Josh Hale ‘23, captain of the debate team, all debaters start out competing in the same bracket. After the first six rounds, the freshman debaters are separated into their own bracket and compete against each other for the novice championship. 

Additionally, Yordanos Mengistu ‘22 reached the top 32 in her final tournament. 

“We had curve balls thrown at us, and I think the team did a lot of really good adaptation,” Moldover said. “I think there are a lot of schools that have a lot of students on their teams and their coaching staffs and they have some advantages, but I think that we just have really dedicated debaters that work very hard and do a large quantity of high-quality work.”

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About the Contributor
Madeline Marriott, Editor-in-Chief
Maddie (she/her) is a senior English major with a Government & Law minor. As the Editor-in-Chief, a Mentor Writing Associate, a Senior Student Contributor for Lafayette Communications, a Communications Intern for the Office of Sustainability, co-founder and Vice President of English Club, and a Senior Interviewer for Lafayette Admissions, no writing happens on campus without her knowing about it. Her Google Calendar would make your head spin. She is a die-hard Swiftie and Phillies fan, a collector of tote bags, and an avid Goodreads and Letterboxd user. She smokes cigars and uses an old-timey typewriter and notepad in the newsroom.

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