Debaters said their piece
By Kevin Gale
The spoken word meant great success for Western's debating society at this year's World Public Speaking Championships.
Graduate history student Casey Halladay led Western speakers with a third-place finish, while fourth-year computer science student Vivienne Suen and Western's debating society president Rob Silver were knocked out in the semifinals.
This year's event, held at the University of Stellenbosh in South Africa, ran Dec. 28 to Jan. 3 and featured 250 teams from approximately 35 countries. In the semifinals, each participant was given a general quote from which they had 10 seconds to create a five-minute speech.
However, in the preliminary rounds, contestants were given only one word and had to create a four-minute speech, Suen said. "It really tests your power of articulation and creativity. With a tournament that size you get a wide range of competitive levels."
Silver added Western, which made up Canada's team, was the only country to have three contestants make the semifinals.
Held simultaneously with the public speaking contest was the World Debating Championships, in which Western had two teams made up of the same individuals from the public speaking event, with the addition of recent Western graduate and part-time student, Brent Patterson.
Western's debaters failed to reach the quarter-finals by a single point. "It's not as good a result as last year and not as good as we'd hoped," Silver said. He added Western's top team finished fifth at the championships in Ireland last year.
Because the event was in Africa this year, more groups from countries whose mother tongue is not English participated, Silver said. He added those nation's representatives spoke English just as well as everyone else.
Silver also said it was encouraging to see contestants from countries such as Singapore, which are not permitted in their homeland to speak against their governments, get the opportunity to freely debate political issues.
Concern was raised in December about funding for the trip at the Dec. 5 University Students' Council meeting in which council agreed to fund $1,500 of the trip. Silver said it helped immensely, especially in a year when the administration could not offer support due to budgetary constraints.
The remaining funds came from a $5,000 donation from Western's alumni association, a few hundred from Foundation Western and the debating society's budget, as well as approximately $250 in personal funds for each participant, Silver said.