Talking Our Way to the Top at Debate Nationals!

Tuesday, May 09, 2023 - By: Maxine P, Alex ‘23

While the Brentwood community was gathered on the sunny shores of Mill Bay for the 51st Annual Brentwood Regatta, four debaters, accompanied by their coach, Ms Legassicke, boarded a plane bound for Calgary to compete at the Canadian National High School Debate Championships! This was the first time in five years Brentwood has been to the national championships and the first time in Brentwood history that we qualified two teams for the national tournament. Zander L, Ellis ‘23, Maxine P, Alex ‘23, Daniel J, Privett ‘24, and Yash D, Whittall ‘25, placed among the top teams in British Columbia and participated in the three-day event that was full of strong argumentation, heated rebuttal, and many lasting memories.

Friday, April 28, began with a walking tour of Calgary where debaters from the Northwest Territories to New Brunswick gathered to revel in the warm day and enjoy local art, the Comic Con parade, lunch, and a discussion with city council member Courtney Walcott who spoke about life as a politician and was happy to answer our questions. The suited-up individuals then walked to Western Canada High School to begin the first day of competition which consisted of two rounds of prepared debate on the motion: This house, as Canada, would support and strongly advocate for Taiwan’s accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership. Armed with legal pads, coloured pens, and an abundance of knowledge about Canadian geopolitics, our two teams competed fiercely in both rounds. “Our creative approach to the prepared rounds definitely gave us a leg up and made for some interesting debates!” remarked Debate Co-Captain, Zander. After dinner and the Golden State Warriors game, of course, we headed off for a restful sleep in preparation for Saturday.

Saturday began early and after breakfast and coffee, we were ready for four rounds of bracketed impromptu debate, which would determine our placing for the finals on Sunday. In each round, where the topics ranged from the decline of humanities subjects in university to zoning laws, we were given the motion and 30 minutes to prepare two eight minute speeches and a four minute reply speech. During this intense internet-less preparation, a wide breadth of general knowledge and strong teamwork is essential for success. Maxine and Daniel held their own against the teams that went on to finish first and fourth in the tournament, while Zander and Yash used their signature “creative” approach to etch out wins. “Saturday was great,” observed Daniel. “Our competition was tough, but if anything, it definitely helped us get an idea of what the best debaters in Canada are like. And I think we did pretty well!”

Sunday morning began with the announcement of the top eight teams who qualified for quarter finals. Unfortunately, neither Brentwood team qualified, but instead we had a team brunch and walked around the nearby town before heading back to Western Canada High School to watch the finals. The tournament concluded with awards and a speech from the former mayor of Calgary, Naheed Nenshi, that had every audience member enraptured. As a former high school debater himself, he emphasized the importance of debate: “At the times in which we live … the skills that you have gained and will continue to use throughout your lives are incredibly important and will serve you very well.” After saying goodbye to our new friends from around the country, we boarded a taxi bound for the airport.

We would like to extend a huge thank you to our coach and mentor, Ms Legassicke, for her incredible support and wise expertise not just this weekend for the debaters, but throughout the year for the entire Brentwood Speech, Debate, and Model UN program. Thank you to the BC Debate and Speech Association for making this possible and the entire crew at Western Canada High School for their amazing hospitality. The weekend was a great conclusion for our Grade 12s, Maxine and Zander, and great preparation for the future of Brentwood debate: Yash and Daniel, who placed as the 14th overall speaker. We have high hopes for the program and are excited to see where it will go!

Maxine P, Alex ‘23

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