BANGOR, Maine — When you compete on a debate team, you need to be able to argue for and against each issue that comes before you, Bangor High School debate team captain Brendan Moore said Thursday.
“They make you debate both sides, so you have to think about the issue very thoroughly,” Moore said.
A team of 14 teenaged debaters from Bangor went to Chicago to participate in the 2014 National Catholic Forensic League Grand Tournament, held May 23-25. One of the Bangor debaters ranked 11th in the nation, according to speech and debate team coach Jennifer Page.
“We have the top scores in the state, and we have quite a few kids who did well this year,” Page said. “Nick Danby went all the way to finals. That was a big thing because he’s a sophomore, and he ranked 11th in the nation. He’s poised to do extremely well in the coming year. Another kid who went to the semifinals is Cavan Hagerty.”
Hagerty also is a sophomore, she said. Both Danby and Hagerty participated in the Student Congress portion of the competition where a mock legislative session is held and participants debate bills and resolutions.
“There were 42 different bills that covered everything from student loans, to bankruptcy to ending the use of drones,” Danby said.
“We’ve got a lot of young debaters who are doing really, really well,” Page said.
Six from Bangor High’s team qualified for the upcoming National Forensic League’s National Speech & Debate Tournament in Overland Park, Kansas June 15-20. Seniors Jan Thompkins and Malik Robinson, and sophomores Sharon Audibert, Vanessa Graham, Elizabeth Robbins and Danby are preparing now for the upcoming competition, she said.
Robinson is the state record holder for the past two years, with 1,870 National Forensic League, or NFL, points, Thompkins, is close behind with 1,726 point, Page said.
“Danby, as a sophomore, he already has 1,069 [NFL points],” she said. “He’s the one person on the team who lives and breathes debate. In order to qualify [for the Chicago competition], he had to research and write like 40 speeches that he memorized. He’s a really dedicated individual.”
Danby said he really enjoyed meeting people from across the country and hearing what they had to say on the different subjects.
“It’s fascinating to hear the different opinions,” the sophomore said.
Debaters can choose from 12 different categories that cover everything from debating new legislation, to arguing values to acting out a piece of literature.
Last year, the Lincoln-Douglas section of the debate at the national conference focused on the pros and cons of the national health care law. This year it was national security vs. privacy rights when the nation is in conflict, said Moore, who also is president of the senior class and an honor roll student.
The fact that 14 of his teammates qualified for the national competition is a record for the Rams, who have an active debate team, Moore said.
Danby’s father, George Danby, a cartoonist for the Bangor Daily News, said his son is “crazy” about debate, and he and his teammates work extremely hard researching and practicing.
The group hosts or attends weekly daylong debates all over Maine that require the students to be at the school at 5:30 a.m., Page said.
“The kids are extremely dedicated,” she said.
Jim Moore, Brendan’s father, could not say enough about the debate team’s coaches, Joe Pelletier and Page, who put in countless hours helping to teach the students the skills needed to debate well.
Moore, a trial attorney, said the skills the debate students learn will translate into the real world.
“These kids are going to be so far ahead from this experience,” he said.
His son, who has earned 800 National Forensic League points and is ranked in the top 10 Lincoln-Douglas debaters in the history of the state, said being able to have an open mind when it comes to controversy is the major skill he learned.
“It definitely gives you the ability to think on your feet,” Brendan Moore said. “One of the biggest things I’ve learned is looking at two sides of the issue.”