Speechtime Revelations

Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

“The U.S. and China should work to unify the Koreas.”

Eight minutes left.

As I walk to the podium, I present myself as a confident junior. Yet in my mind, I am still a freshman, stammering through my first speech, unnerved by the seven pairs of eyes peering at me.Is my posture straight? Yes. Is my hair too messy? I fixed it. Is my dress wrinkled? Probably. Could they see the beads of sweat on my forehead? Hopefully not. Does my voice sound weird?I shrink behind my screen and stumble through the words. Am I saying the wrong thing? This checklist was a ritual in every presentation I gave.

“North Korea is close to collapse.”

Seven minutes.

My overconfident junior self scoffs at this checklist. She convinces herself that they are saying the wrong thing. The opponent’s suit is wrinkled. His hair is messy too. She convinces herself that she is considerably better than he is. As the junior’s self-assuredness begins to overpower the speech, the freshman’s nervousness extinguishes that confidence. My voice cracks.

“The plan leads to Korean security.”

Six minutes.

The opponent’s argument is valid – he pointed out that Korean unification was implausible with the sheer number of refugees in North Korea. How had I not thought of that? My freshman voice rings loudly in my head. The sheer magnitude of the relocation effort would put Korea into a position of weakness and isolation.

“The plan boosts Korean economy.”


My junior voice pushes back: I understand my opponent’s point even better than he does. Korea wants to expand their middle power; they want unification. I make my voice louder, and speed through the list of Korea’s renewable energy achievements. The nervousness from past minutes fuels my speed reading; the confidence feeds my assuredness in the benefits of green economy. I can utilize this nervous energy to propel my argument.

“The US and China are key.”


My nervousness reminds me that a good speech must convince my audience; I can’t assume my argument alone can do the job. I think about other arguments, and the audience appears once again. The judge isn’t listening, entertaining himself with pen cap flipping. My opponent is passionately doodling on his desk. The small entertainments of writing utensils displace the issues of human rights and nuclear threats in North Korea. My voice gets quieter. Does my argument make sense?

“Without unification, war is a threat.”


I use the junior’s confidence to convince myself that my argument is coherent. The idea is implausible: there are too many factors required to achieve unification. Yet, the paragraphs detailing the process of unification have been successful in the past. My contentions overpower the opponent’s retaliations. I know he will inevitably forget to respond to one of the points, and I will make my case for why there is a moral obligation to unify the Koreas.

“North Korea pervasively violates human rights.”


The junior has learned to harness the freshman’s nerves, helping her rattle off arguments detailing why immediate action is necessary.

“Reconciliation is possible.”


Right now, the Koreas cannot be unified, but with the energy of the junior propelled by the nervousness of the freshman, I can finally articulate why Korean unification is vital. The freshman’s uncertainty and the junior’s overconfidence work in perfect harmony to form a holistic understanding of my approach to challenges. This round is only a small part of my life; I will give similar speeches, I will go through the same emotions, but now, the freshman and the junior can coordinate to triumph over the challenge. Thus, within an eight-minute speech, I have learned to harness the nervous and confident energies within myself, enhancing my ability to succeed, not only during a debate round, but throughout the numerous resolutions in my life.

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