Seniors Earn Debating and Public Speaking Success on the Global Stage

Seniors Joe Nero and Andrew Steinberg

On 6 April, seniors Joe Nero and Andrew Steinberg traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, as part of the United States team competing at the 2018 World Individual Debate and Public Speaking Championships (WIDSPC). During the five-day tournament, which includes 130 students from around the word, speakers compete in four events: Impromptu Speaking, Parliamentary Debate, Interpretive Reading, and either Persuasive or After Dinner Speaking. Scores from each category are combined to determine the overall World Champion. Joe reached the finals in After Dinner Speaking, and Andrew was one of four contestants to reach the finals in three events (Persuasive Speaking, Impromptu Speaking, and Interpretive Reading). Andrew advanced to the grand final in Impromptu Speaking and was recognized as the tournament’s second place speaker overall.

The 130 WIDPSC competitors represent some of the top high school debaters and public speakers from 12 countries on five continents. Many had to win in regional or national tournament in their home country to qualify, as Andrew did by winning the top speaker award at the St. Paul’s Cross Examination Debate in November. Others qualified through their performance at an international competition, such as the International Independent Schools Public Speaking Competition (IISPSC), as Joe did in October.

WIDPSC describes its mission as being “aligned with the ideals of excellence, identity, and the art of expression—the ability to communicate and gain recognition and respect for one’s ideas and opinions. It targets tomorrow’s leaders—students in a global market who must learn and collaborate with peers from diverse schools, cultural backgrounds and countries.” 

“Andrew’s second place finish is the highest that an RL student has placed at Worlds in the 20 years that I have been at the school,” notes Mr. Stewart Thomsen, history department chair and the team’s faculty advisor. “Most importantly, though, Joe and Andrew’s success at Worlds is a victory for everyone in the program, past and present. It is a tribute to the hard work of these two boys, but it is also a tribute to the RL Debate boys at all levels who listened to Joe and Andrew’s speeches and offered feedback; to the boys from years past who shared what they learned from their own international debate and public speaking experiences; to the RL Debate coaches who teach, guide, and support our boys each year in the RL Debate and Public Speaking Program—Ms. Dromgoole, Dr. Stevens, Dr. Kokotailo, Mr. Hiatt, Ms. Delaney, Dr. Guerra, and Mr. Heaton; and to the RL parents who support our boys in myriad ways, including Robyn Steinberg who chaperoned Joe and Andrew so that an RL teacher would not miss a week of teaching, coaching, and advising. The boys’ success is a victory for all of us.”