This April, two PA Seniors will attend the World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championship (WIDPSC).
Jenn Schaffer ’10, Co-President of Philomathean Society, and Adam Tohn ’10, Director of Training of Philomathean Society, each earned first place speaker in their respective debate tournaments, and thus qualified for Worlds.
Schaffer placed third out of the United States participants at the International Independent School Public Speaking Competition (IISPSC), held at Deerfield Academy. The IISPSC hosted participants from 13 different countries, including Cyprus, Jordan, Bermuda, the Bahamas, the United Kingdom and Canada. The top five participants from the US attend Worlds.
Out of the three categories Schaffer competed in at the IISPSC, she ranked highest in dramatic interpretation, placing first for the United States with her performance of a monologue from Oscar Wilde’s play Salomé.
Tohn qualified for Worlds in November by placing first as an advanced speaker at the Andover Invitational Tournament, which 16 different prep schools from the Debating Association of New England Independent Schools (DANEIS) participated in.
Worlds will be held from April 7 to 13 in Druskininkai, Lithuania.
Valdas Adamkus, the President of Lithuania, will speak during the opening ceremony.
According to the Worlds website, previous competitors have come from all over the world, including Australia, Hong Kong, Canada, the US, the UK, South Africa, Pakistan, Cyprus, Argentina, Botswana, Israel, India, South Korea, Zimbabwe and Germany.
The competition is based on individual performance, but each participant also represents his or her own country.
Shaffer said, “It’s a new thing for Adam and I to be representing the US, not just Philo anymore, not just Andover.”
The tournament consists of three events: parliamentary debate, impromptu speaking, interpretive reading and an optional persuasive speaking or “after-dinner” speaking.
The resolutions for the debates are given out 45 minutes beforehand, and competitors only have two minutes to prepare for the impromptu speaking event.
“After-dinner” speaking is giving a prepared speech to a specific audience. “[The event] is kind of humorous,” said Schaffer. “It’s one of the lighter categories. It’s about poise and being able to make people laugh.”
In addition to the debate event, Tohn is excited about interpretive reading. “I’m going to use Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Tell-Tale Heart,” he said. “That’s one of my favorite stories of all time.”
In preparation for Worlds, Tohn plans to rehearse his interpretive reading piece, write and memorize his persuasive speech, practice impromptu speaking and keep an eye on current events. He intends to “Do a lot of reading on international affairs” over spring break.
Schaffer wants to continue working on her monologue with Mark Efinger, Instructor in Theater.
Both Schaffer and Tohn plan to train with Bob Hutchings, a teacher from the Pike School who advises the Philomathean Society.
Though Schaffer said “It’d be nice to bring home a trophy,” she said, “The thing I’m most looking forward to is meeting tons of debaters from all around the world, [which] is going to be awesome.”
One of the reasons Shaffer enjoyed her experience at the IISPSC was the people she was able to meet, which included debate partners from Cyprus and Quebec.
Schaffer believes that after Worlds she will be “even more motivated to help train the younger students to give them the opportunity to see the things that [she’s] seen.”
Like Schaffer, Tohn wants to see how students outside the US approach debate. “Most of my debating experience has been about policy issues within the US. I’m really curious to see what those people from other countries have to say,” he said.
Since Tohn is the Director of Training for Philomathean Society, said he is also interested in learning about the various “techniques and ways of preparing for debate” of people from different parts of the world. Tohn said he wants to use this information to give better advice to the next board of the Philomathean Society.
Calling the championship a “culmination of four years,” Schaffer said, “Having gone to Worlds will feel like a great closing chapter on this part of my debating career.”
“I remember as a freshman, I heard that one of the senior girls had gone to South Africa for Worlds, and I just thought that was the coolest thing ever,” she said. “I never thought I would get to this level, but now that I’m here, it’s just really exciting.”
Jenn Schaffer is the former Editorial Board Chair of The Phillipian