Speech and Debate: A Sport for the Strong-Minded

Mariam Khan '24

“In 6th place, in Lincoln-Douglas Debate, from New Jersey: Meera–”

With a gasp, I sit up sharply in bed. I abruptly come to my senses, recovering from the nightmare. It’s just a dream. It’s just a dream. I would never get 6th place. That’s a pure figment of my imagination. The shameful, despicable position of 6th place can only be for my debate rival, Molly. Of course, I’d be further up there. 

With a sigh, I lie back down on the pillow and stare up at the constellations on my ceiling. The Karl Marx poster on the wall gazes down upon me, as if denouncing my contribution to the capitalist world. I rub my eyes and rise from bed as the clock hits 6:30am. 

It’s finally my favorite day of the week: Saturday. But this Saturday is more important than all the other Saturdays: a life-determining day awaits. I make myself a breakfast consisting of sourdough bread, vegan cheese, and an oat milk latte with three pumps of matcha. Once upstairs, I take out my freshly ironed suit, straighten my hair, and put on a smooth coat of red, AOC-esque lipstick (in honor of the queen herself). Meditation and affirmations are soon followed with a quick Snapchat selfie before I hop in the car, sporting nude 3-inch pencil heels. 

On my way to school, the car speakers blast NPR’s “Saturday Morning Live”. Rather than tuning in, I blast a new album by Tame Impala—a very underground alt band—through my wired headphones, because I already know enough about the political and economic state of the world. Once we reach the high school, I ensure that my father stops a safe distance from the entrance. I can’t afford for him to see the cult meeting occurring inside. 

“PEEL. BANANAS. PEEL, PEEL. BANANAS. CHIQUITA. BANANAS.” the students inside shout in impassioned voices. Voice warm-ups, which are composed of tongue twisters and hype songs alike, are the holy grail for a debate kid: the secret to a first place and not the appalling sixth place. The crowd crescendos before smoothly moving into another warmup: Razzle Dazzle, another cult favorite. 

The students throw their arms up and begin to sway. The cult-leader pauses everyone for a quick moment, providing a passionate pep talk about being “in the moment.” The day will be long, and toe blisters will appear after hours in uncomfortable shoes. Only a warrior mindset can save us all. The cult dashes towards the school bus, the clacking of several pairs of heels combines with an orchestral finish. 

On the bus, I open my space-gray MacBook Pro. A light blue “STEMINIST” sticker, succulents, a black fist, and a “Harvard Tournament 2021” sticker adorns the laptop. Once we reach the tournament venue, the busload of students dissipates into the crowd, which is also decked out in the entire office apparel section of Express. The first round of the day is at 9 AM. This Saturday morning, I’ve never been more ready to yell at other kids about why lethal autonomous weapons (LAWs) will lead to extinction from a nuclear winter. It will all be worth it at the end of the day, once we receive our gold trophies. Yet these trophies represent more than just a simple piece of plastic: the gold will rust, but the memories will last forever.