We were delighted to have His Excellency The Honourable Hieu Van Le AC, Governor of South Australia present awards to the winning and runner up teams, as well as the Debater of the Year Winners for 2019. The awards recognised the state’s best debaters from what has been the largest competition with over 1250 participants. Congratulations to all! Our sincere thanks to Sacred Heart College for their generous hospitality of this event.
Good afternoon Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen, and of course, my fellow debaters.
I am greatly honoured that I have been given the opportunity to respond to His Excellency’s address.
To begin with, I would like to personally, and on behalf of all my fellow debaters, extend a warm thank you to His Excellency, for his continued patronage of the Debating SA competition.
The Debating SA competition is a truly excellent, invigorating experience for all students involved, and I am lucky to have been able to both participate in the competition for almost seven years, and more recently, even adjudicate some of the younger years’ debates. Doing debating can be incredibly rewarding for all students: from students who have never spoken in front of an audience before, to experienced debaters having robust intellectual discussion.
I am immensely honoured to be standing here today giving this speech. I have been debating with Debating SA since Year 5, when I was 11 years old, and I can definitely say that it has had an influence on the person I am today. It has led me to an interest and understanding of politics which I believe is invaluable, and an ability to articulate myself. I am also glad that I have had the opportunity not just to debate, but also adjudicate. Being able to give back to the competition and help out younger debaters is immensely rewarding. I am constantly astounded at the knowledge of the Year 5, 6 and 7s whom I adjudicate, and the angles they attack arguments from which I would never have dreamed of. I believe that it is vital to foster structured discussion and debate for students at a young age so they can equip themselves for future challenges. There are few places where one can learn not only social skills such as discussion and polite argument, but also intellectual content, as with debating, and therefore Your Excellency’s support is truly appreciated.
Debating also teaches more than just speaking skills: being able to critically analyse another’s ideas and find flaws in their reasoning teaches logical skills which is an important life skill. One needs only look at the unproductive public discourse that can be seen in the United States and the United Kingdom at the moment. Debate has devolved into shouting matches, ad hominem attacks, and even Tweets. If you take one thing from my speech, make it this: conflict is inevitable in our world, but it need not be an unpleasant, bitter experience. It should be a productive, and important part of civil discourse. I hope that the leaders of tomorrow will have the insight to not play the political game of ‘one upmanship’, but rather through logical debate and rhetoric. These are skills that are taught through Debating SA, and is why I believe it is an important program.
It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the wonderful people that ensure the smooth operation of the competition. The Debating SA team works incredibly hard behind the scenes, concocting many great topics for students to debate over the year. I also have to acknowledge the extensive list of adjudicators who award debates, and provide feedback to the debaters: thank you for all of your feedback over the years, telling me to slow down so the audience can actually understand what I’m saying, and that despite the fact that I wrote my speech in the car on the way to the debate, I cannot make up for the fact that I only have 2 minutes worth of content for a 5 minute speech by speaking incredibly slowly. I would also like to sincerely thank the teachers and team coaches who listen to ideas, guide students, and help write speeches: you are invaluable. Lucky last, thank you to all my fellow debaters: thank you for being great opponents over the years, and I wish you all the best of luck for future seasons.
Congratulations to all the award winners today, and I would like to invite His Excellency to present medallions to students and Dr Paul Hoadley, Chairman of the Board of Debating SA to read the citations.