Texas A&M Debate Team competes nationally
Published: Monday, October 8, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 8, 2012 02:10
The Texas A&M Speech and Debate Team is a student run organization set on providing a forum in which Aggies are able to sharpen their tongues and hone their public speaking skills through national and collegiate-level competition.
In ancient Europe, central Germanic tribes were observed by Roman legions to settle their political arguments by their politicians engaging in physical combat to the death.
Today, this tradition is carried on in Aggieland in the form of the Texas A&M Speech and Debate Team — minus the battle-axes.
The organization is fairly new, springing into existence through the acquisition of University funding. This was accomplished through the combined efforts of the founding president of the organization and 2009 Speech and Debate National Champion in extemporaneous speaking, Omar El-Halwagi, and former treasurer, Audrianne Doucet. El-Halwagi and Doucet are both A&M graduates from the Class of 2011.
Zoë Christiansen, sophomore business major and current treasurer for the team, is in charge of managing the team’s funds and is also an active competitor.
“[Through Speech & Debate] one can learn to communicate effectively on [virtually] anything,” Christiansen said. “I have been competing since my freshman year in high school and since then I have become more politically aware, a better writer, a better citizen”
At the most recent speech and debate tournament, held at Rice University, Christiansen took home first place in After Dinner Speaking. After Dinner Speaking is an event in which the competitor is given a national or major issue and is asked to develop and present an insightful speech — often humorous — on the subject before a panel of judges.
“Speech and debate is a wonderful opportunity for networking,” Christiansen said. “We are constantly around individuals from across the United States: U.T., Western Kentucky, University of Houston, Rice, Texas State, LSU.”
Dominic Odom, sophomore business major and president of the organizatoin, is responsible for providing the effective leadership and management behind the team.
Odom competes in extemporaneous speaking. In extamperaneous speaking, competitors are given a major issue and a short period of time to prepare, memorize and present a 3-7 minute speech on the subject in front of a panel of judges. Odom said his experience can be applied to the real world.
“In the real world, you don’t have weeks and weeks to prepare [a response],” Odom said. “In extemporaneous speaking, you have 30 minutes.”
No stranger to success, Odom recently qualified to compete nationally in his event, claiming third place in extemporaneous speaking in the tournament at Rice.
Odom said competing requires a high degree of commitment in order to be successful in speech and debate.
“I started my preparation in February of  but if you love it, you love it,” Odom said.
The team is not just for those interested in fast-paced competition. Members of the team are eligible to compete in a variety of eleven events ranging from prose-poetry reading, to impromptu and persuasive speaking, and parliamentary debate. Although it is encouraged, there is actually no obligation for members of the team to necessarily compete. Stephanie Gullo, junior political science major is an example of someone who merely wants to improve their speech.
“I mainly desired to improve my speaking skills for my life,” Gullo said.
El-Halwagi said his experiences from competing are responsible for his current successes.
“Speech and debate [was] the most instrumental thing I’ve ever done,” El-Halwagi said. “All of my success has been tied to [my time] doing speech and debate [at A&M]. It will change your life.”
El-Halwagi is currently applying to law school and resides in Houston, Texas.
Texas A&M will be the site of two upcoming regional Speech and Debate tournaments held at the Zachary Engineering and Blocker buildings on Nov. 9-11. The tournament will be open to the public.