Debate Success for RL Boys This Season

This fall season has proved an excellent showing for the Roxbury Latin Debate Team. Early in September, David Sullivan (II) competed in the World Individual Debate and Public Speaking Championships. His After-Dinner speech—a hilarious depiction of a time traveler from the future speaking to a group of tech executives in the present—propelled him to the finals of the competition. The pandemic, of course, poses a new challenge for David and his fellow RL debaters this year. “I had planned to be in front of a live audience in Shanghai,” David said. “Instead, I was in front of my computer screen in my living room.” While the lack of audible and visual reactions made the competition more challenging, David did say recording his speech mitigated some stress. “Plus,” he added, “I loved wearing pajama bottoms with my suit jacket.”

Later in the month, RL hosted the Interscholastic Parliamentary Debate (virtually, of course), which yielded even more good news for our boys. RL’s team placed second overall with eight wins. Theo Teng and Vishnu Emani (both of Class II) delivered particularly strong performances, placing third in Advanced Speaking (Theo) and Advanced Team (Theo and Vishnu). In the recent virtual debate tournament hosted by the Hotchkiss School, Alex Nahirny (III) earned a second-place finish in Impromptu Speaking and a respectable third place overall in the Novice Speaker category.

On September 27, at the Stoneleigh-Burnham Debate and Public Speaking Tournament, RL came out on top with a first-place finish out of twelve participating teams. Senior Edozie Umunna was named top individual overall, as well as earning a first-place finish in Interpretive Reading. For the latter event, Edozie chose the poem “Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point,” a piece that, given the current racial tensions in our country, he said, “felt more pertinent than ever.” His overall performance qualified him for Worlds. For Edozie, the virtual format meant even more rigorous prep work. “It is so much more difficult for people, in general, to focus on your speech through a screen,” he said. “It has required extra focus from me to maintain their attention; my job is to make it easier for them.”

David Sullivan also did well at Stoneleigh-Burnham, placing third overall, and tying for first place in Impromptu Speaking. His prompt was an Albert Einstein quote: “The mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size.” David used the quote as a jumping-off point to discuss Einstein’s theories, his own exploration of mathematics, and the importance of voter open-mindedness in contemporary American politics. “Often, in Impromptu Speaking, your performance depends on the topics you receive,” said David. “I was grateful when this quote appeared on my Zoom screen.”

There is much for RL debate fans to celebrate, and we look forward to seeing Edozie speak at this year’s World competition. Both Edozie and David hope that they can soon return to in-person debates, so that they can continue to see their friends from all over the world that they have made through debate. “The bonds I have formed through debate are ones I will cherish forever,” says Edozie. “I couldn’t be happier that I made the decision to join the debate program.”