Delbarton Forensic Society: Winning…There’s No Debate About It-Christopher Maximos


Christopher Maximos, Staff Writer

In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.” Over the past three years, I’ve had the pleasure of learning the power of speech with the Delbarton Forensic Society. Forensics, or speech & debate, is competitive public speaking. Students debate a resolution, give public addresses on current events and social topics, or interpret dramatic scripts. Unlike most extracurricular “seasons” that span only three months, forensics starts in August and ends in June, with countless hours of reading periodicals, stressing about tournaments, and traveling to competitions held as far away as Minnesota. Since I’ve entered Delbarton, forensics has been the most formative experience of my academic career, giving me the opportunity to travel the United States and truly find my own voice.

When I arrived to Delbarton in ninth grade, I had a background in theater, lending itself to the “interpretation categories” of forensics, a category where students act out scripts from plays, books, or television shows. Quickly, I realized that interpretation may not have been for me, and at the behest of one of our former coaches, I was introduced to Extemporaneous Speaking. On the surface, the description of extemporaneous speaking can be daunting: a thirty minute preparation period to write a seven minute, memorized speech on a current events question without the internet; yet, the fear disappeared over a matter of days, as I realized that competing in extemporaneous speaking could offer an outlet for learning about the world around me and become a true global citizen. By the end of my ninth grade year, I had won the right to represent Delbarton at the NSDA National Tournament in United States Extemporaneous Speaking, where I competed against the country’s bests and ultimately won seventh place in the category of Commentary.

Through both last year and this year, my competitive experience has been incredibly enriched by our team. For most of the year, a core group of eight or ten members traveled together, allowing us to develop tight knit friendships across grade levels with people that we may have never interacted with previously. Even when I was a ninth grader, the seniors in debate were always available and willing to help out a fellow team member, truly reinforcing Delbarton’s philosophy on the importance of student unity. One of my best friends at Delbarton and current team president, Tommy Szymanski ’18, only got to know each other through traveling. Accordingly, there’s a culture of unity so ingrained with forensics that it seems natural to turn to your teammates first, whether they’re a ninth grader in a different event or a twelfth grader who’ve you competed alongside for years.

Beyond just Delbarton, forensics offers a unique forum to connect with students across the United States and develop a truly national perspective. Like most, before forensics, most of my closest friends were from my town or county. Through the National Championship and other circuit tournaments, though, I spend the majority of my time speaking to friends from Iowa to Texas. We’re fellow-competitors, academic peers, but more importantly, teachers for each other on what’s going on in other parts of the country. I’ve had hour long conversations on the Florida Senate Races all because of the incredible, intellectual group of competitors I’ve met who have an interest in learning from and about others.

Additionally, Delbarton has a unique prestige in athletics and the arts, but what few may know is our prowess in speech and debate. For a relatively young program, we’ve had a streak of top fourteen finishes at Nationals for eight years, as I most recently placed third in U.S. Extemp at the 2017 NSDA Tournament. Just this year, we’ve had three state champions, numerous invitations to the Tournament of Champions, sweepstakes finishes, and champions of national circuit tournaments. Delbarton’s forensic society offers students an opportunity to learn the vital skill of public speaking, but more broadly, to develop long lasting connections, garner recognition, and edify oneself in an academic context. With Delbarton Forensics, there are the same traditions, it’s up to you to carve a new legacy.