Speech and Debate Showcase stirs emotions
Story and photos by Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau
Speech and Debate team member Chloe Saunders stared down at the wooden floor as if to hide the shame that burned in her eyes.
Her character was recalling how her boyfriend had pressured her into taking 77 photos of herself, and how later, in a fit of rage and revenge, he posted them online for anyone to see.
“My body is now public property,” Saunders said during Monday’s Speech and Debate Showcase at Grand Canyon University’s Colangelo College of Business, her voice barely above a whisper.
Two days before heading for the Forensics Association Championships at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., Saunders and four teammates presented some of the speeches that helped catapult GCU’s three-year-old team this year into a national contender.
“This whole year has been really exciting for us,” team director Barry Regan, a College of Humanities and Social Sciences instructor, told the packed room.
Speech topics tend to be emotional, even painful, Regan said. The students explore taboo topics, such as Saunders’ speech about the destructive power of revenge porn.
Speeches also can be funny, such as Thomas Gleason’s talk about superheroes, which drew uproarious laughter at times.
The muscle-studded giants in comic books make the average real male feel inferior, he said. But they don’t resolve problems well. After all, Thor tried to kill Captain America the first time they met.
For these oversized hunks, seeking emotional help is weak. In reality, he said, men need to seek help. The rate of men committing suicide is more than three times higher than of women.
Chrycia LeGendre’s speech focused on performance art, which she said is a dying, often misunderstood form of expression.
She used as examples a piece in which 9,000 backpacks, each depicting a child who died in an earthquake, were placed on a wall.
One showed Syrian women marked with red stripes to represent that they had been raped and abused.
Another, a woman lying on glass and talking about feminine oppression, was misunderstood by a woman who pointed out that it’s supposed to be a glass ceiling, not floor.
TaylorRae Humbert dramatized the role of a woman raising a daughter whose father raped her. Her biggest fear is that the baby will turn out to be like him. “But I will tell her, it was never your fault,” she said. Then she added, “It was never my fault,” either.
Saunders also portrayed a young woman who accepted a ride home from a man who said he was a parent of two people she knew. His daughter was waiting at home for her, he told her.
He gave her a tour inside a small room without a door handle.
“When I turned to the door,” she said, pausing dramatically, “he was blocking it.”
She was held there for 10 years, long enough to give birth to a daughter.
The day she regained her freedom, she banged on a door, stomped on the ground and called out with excruciating desperation. It was as if 10 years of repressed terror was released in her hands, feet and voice.
And that day, a cell phone was slipped through a mail slot, and her imprisonment ended.
Ashlyn Tupper’s provocative topic was about parents who were shamed for allowing their boy to dress like a girl.
“We are here to love him, not to change him,” she said.
Against the scorn of the community, they did what they thought was right.
“God, please grant me the serenity to be an awesome mom to my son,” she prayed.
Regan hugged Tupper, the only senior, in a gesture of appreciation when the Showcase was over. He admitted that after performances, “I often cry.”
Among many accomplishments this year, the team:
- Finished No. 25 in the nation out of 199 schools that competed in parliamentary debate.
- Scored a three-peat when, for the third straight year, it was named Division III champion in the 2016 Christian College Forensic Invitational in Salt Lake City.
- Was honored when six members were named to the Pacific Southwest Collegiate Forensics Association 2016 Academic All-Conference Team.
But perhaps the most exciting development was that GCU was unanimously selected to host the 2017 National Christian College Forensics Invitational, one of the most prestigious speech and debate events of the year.
Related stories about this year’s successes:
- There’s no debating team’s cachet
- News keeps getting better for Speech and Debate
- Parliamentarians put GCU on national map
- GCU topples ASU, UC-Berkeley
Contact Laurie Merrill at 602-639-6511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.