Liberty University’s Forensic Speech Team won in its division at the National Christian College Forensics Invitational in March and came in fourth place overall. Following this success, the team held a showcase of their work Wednesday, March 28, in the Department of Communication Auditorium in DeMoss Hall.
“We’re the top Christian school for how many students we had participating,” Forensics Coach and Graduate Student Assistant Meagan Roper said.
Roper, who has been working with the forensics team since August, introduced the showcase by giving a short history on the team. The forensics team began in the 1970s under Dr. Cecil Kramer but was inactive for years before being revived in 2009.
“We now have seven active students and this year alone have brought home 166 awards,” Roper said.
According to Roper, the forensics team competes in 20 different tournaments per year over the course of 10 weekends. There are three different branches in which the team members can compete, including platform speech, interpretive speech and limited preparation.
“The platform speeches are all written by us. The interpretation speeches are things we pull from literature,” junior Colin Dowd said.
Dowd has been involved with the forensics team since his freshman year. Dowd and junior Josh Wade, a fellow team member, performed a duo interpretation entitled “What Teachers Make” at the showcase in addition to their solo interpretative work.
In order to put these interpretive pieces together, Dowd said the forensics team pulls from different mediums of literature, including newspaper clippings and books.
“We’ve been doing our duo speech since October. When we first put it together, I would say we probably put 40 hours into it,” Dowd said. “Once you get the actual speech written, you have to tweak it constantly.”
Freshman Whitney Rutherford, whose informative speaking piece called Philanthrocapitalism won first in the nation at the National Christian College Forensics Invitational, said she puts hours of research into perfecting her speeches.
“I’m checking week by week – even day by day – to get new sources,” Rutherford said.
In addition to her informative piece, Rutherford performed an improvised speech at the showcase. She was given two minutes to prepare and five minutes to perform a persuasive speech based on a random quote handed in by a professor attending the event.
During the time she was given, Rutherford pieced together a speech connecting the Disney film “Finding Nemo,” Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and Thomas Jefferson to the Tina Turner quote “What’s love got to do with it?”
Rutherford, who has been doing forensics and debate since high school, said she sees herself continuing in forensics for the foreseeable future. Rutherford and Dowd both expressed that people interested in doing forensics should try it but warned that joining the team takes dedication.
“It’s not something you walk into perfect. It takes growing a passion for it,” Rutherford said.
“It’s definitely an experience. You grow so much as a communicator and as a person. The professionalism you gain from this experience is absolutely incredible,” Dowd said.
The forensics team will compete in the American Forensics Association (AFA) National Individual Events Tournament April 6-9 at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. The following week they will participate in a National Forensics Association (NFA) competition at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, from April 19 to 23.