Speech and Debate team performances reveal depth of emotion
Story by Laurie Merrill
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
A rape victim’s agonizing decision, a man who dared tell the truth about a popular football coach, a woman who was abducted and held as a slave for 10 years.
These were among topics explored by members of GCU’s speech and debate team Wednesday night at the Student Union.
In their dramatic solo portrayals, three freshmen and a sophomore showed audience members why the three-year-old team is ranked among the top 20 schools in the nation. The four students expressed a devastating range of emotions that went far beyond the headlines and revealed depth of feelings that may be difficult to confront.
“These are stories worth telling,” said sophomore team member Chloe Saunders.
Freshman TaylorRae Humbert dramatized the role of a woman raising a daughter whose father was a rapist.
During her performance, she grappled with the contradictions of the experience of carrying the child of the man who had so cruelly hurt her.
She spoke of the woman’s agonizing reality that she would spend the rest of her life with a reminder of the assault, that one day she would have to tell her daughter that her father raped her mother, and that even her family members wouldn’t celebrate the birth of a baby who was created during violence.
“I just didn’t understand how something so horrible could create something so beautiful,” she said.
One thing the mother knew — that when the time comes to tell her daughter about her father, she will assure her, “It’s not your fault.”
In one of his two presentations, freshman Thomas Gleason performed the role of a grown-up victim of Jerry Sandusky, a convicted serial child molester who was an assistant football coach for his entire career, mostly at Pennsylvania State University under the late Joe Paterno.
In his role as adult molestation victim, he recalled the joy and reverence he felt as a boy when he first stepped foot on the Penn State campus and met Sandusky.
“I look back now … I realize Jerry had things planned from the very beginning,” he said, remembering how eventually the boy spent many nights in Sandusky’s house.
“He began having me lie on top of him for long periods of time,” he said. He said the boy knew in his heart this was wrong, but he let it go. This was Jerry Sandusky. He should be grateful for all the coach had done.
And besides, he was afraid of Sandusky. He had a temper and had hurt him.
Gleason spoke of coming forward with the story and how protesters accused the victims — others also came forward — of hurting Penn State for the money.
Later, when the victim took the stand in Sandusky’s criminal trial, he said, “I felt so exposed. I just started to cry.”
But the truth, he said, is “I don’t want people to feel sorry for me.”
Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse and is serving a sentence of between 30 and 60 years.
Chloe Saunders, a sophomore, portrayed one of the women who had been abducted by a Cleveland man and held in sexual slavery for 10 years.
She spoke of how naïve she had been, agreeing to let the man her mother’s age give her a ride to his house, and how after she got there he ordered her to take down her pants and later chained her in the basement.
She spoke of wanting affection from her captor, her anger at missing high school and never getting a driver’s license, and how she conceived and gave birth to a daughter in captivity.
After she and other captives were freed, she said, “Maybe me finding my voice will help another girl find hers.”
Freshman Chrycia LeGendre performed a piece about the first woman allowed to fight in the UFC, Ronda Rousey, and how Rousey is a role model for women who want to compete in any league against any opponent.
The fighter beat great odds to become a UFC fighter by maintaining a belief in herself.
“I ignored everybody who told me it couldn’t be done,” she said.
In his other performance, Gleason spoke about superheroes and their impact. Thor tried to kill Captain America in their first meeting, he said, but the comic strip icons mostly repress their emotions.
That makes sense, he said, if you are like Batman and “emulating a nocturnal animal,” but not in the real world.
“These heroes are made to be perfect, not realistic,” he said.
One solution? Make heroes more like real men.
Several students interviewed after the performances said they appreciated the courage of the speech and debate team, which is headed by Barry Regan, College of Humanities and Social Sciences communication instructor.
“It was very intense but very enlightening at the same time to hear the issues up front,” said attendee Elizabeth Garlick, a sophomore. “I think it’s necessary.”
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or [email protected]