Speech and debate team takes home big wins from JW Patterson Debate Tournament

Liberty University’s speech and debate team started its season with big wins at the JW Patterson Debate Tournament at the University of Kentucky on Oct. 1-2. 

With a weekend of engaged speakers and fiery debates, debate partners Kaleb Horne and Alyssa Shuttlesworth triumphed over 20 schools as junior varsity division champions. The tournament comprised three divisions: novice, junior varsity and open. In each division, teams had to battle it out in six preliminary rounds of debate called “out-rounds,” where half of the teams cleared to the next level. A series of elimination rounds spanned the weekend. 

After passing these rounds, Horne and Shuttlesworth made it to the semifinals against Emory University. As partners, they debated affirmative and negative speeches before beginning four periods of cross-examination. After cinching the win against Emory, they moved on to win against Samford University in the finals. 

“I like the competition,” Horne said. “I also like the traveling, and researching is really fun.” 

Being a debate team member can be challenging, and the members have the strenuous task of thinking quickly and efficiently on the spot, requiring brevity, clarity and accuracy. 

As a second-year student and debate team member, Shuttlesworth found that learning to research effectively and efficiently has helped her daily life and academics immensely. According to Shuttlesworth, debating also helps her to keep up with news and current events. 

“I’m a lot faster at researching than I would be without debate and also thinking quickly on my feet,” Shuttlesworth said. 

Along with learning various soft skills, debate team members get to interact and communicate with people of varying backgrounds and beliefs. 

“A lot of times at Liberty, you are kind of isolated from the world, but at a debate tournament, you are going to go up against 20 different schools who are not (from) a Christian environment, so you get to meet a lot of people from different walks of life,” Horne said. 

As a third-year student, Horne has grown to love debate. He started speech and debate in middle school and did well in competitions throughout high school. When he first attended Liberty, he had no interest in joining the debate team. Now, however, he loves it. 

“If you think about debate more as a performance, like a play, someone will always be playing the bad guy,” Horne said. 

According to Horne, he found there will be arguments that he may not necessarily agree with from a moral standpoint, but he finds value in understanding another point of view.

“It’s valuable to put yourself in other people’s shoes, and then you can learn more about (how) to better engage with those people,” Horne said. 

In contrast, Shuttlesworth originally wanted to be a lawyer and thought that being a debate team member would help her argumentative skills. Even though she is no longer trying to be a lawyer, Shuttlesworth gained a valuable experience and newfound skills through debate.

According to Shuttlesworth, debate offers many skills for all types of majors. Skills like public speaking, critical thinking and intercultural communication are all values employers look for. 

The debate team meets twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays on the second floor of DeMoss Hall. For more information visit this website.

Merritt is a feature reporter for the Liberty Champion

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