My Passion for Debate

The 18th century French philosopher Denis Diderot said, “Only passions, great passions can elevate the soul to great things.” Describe one of your passions and reflect on how it has contributed to your personal growth.

The great passion of my high school years has been debate. One of the reasons that I attended Damien High School in the first place was because of its reputation in competitive debate. I was thirteen years old when I began and I realized very quickly that I loved it. I loved the teamwork and I loved the intensity and excitement of the competition. I had not anticipated that what began as an elective in my freshman year would grow into an activity that would influence my future, academically and personally, so much.The intensity of a debate round is unrivaled by any other activity I have participated in. Even the feeling of standing on the diving block at a swim meet pales in comparison to the intensity of standing behind the podium, waiting for the timer to start. Before a debate round, I am completely immersed in preparing for the arguments we will make and anticipating the arguments we will hear. When it is my turn to speak, I know the spotlight is on me. For the next five minutes all ears and eyes will be scrutinizing my every word, noting the slightest detail. All the nervous energy leaves me once the timer starts, and I speak with all the passion I have. I crave those five minutes of intensity when the words flow naturally and instinctively from my lips. No thought enters my mind and all distractions in the room disappear. The timer beeps again and my mind exits my temporary world of focus and concentration and I find myself in a room erupting with applause. It is then that I feel my thirst to compete has been quenched, and the long hours of preparation have repaid me.Being a part of debate has allowed me to meet many new people who share the same enthusiasm and zeal that I have. However, unlike any other sport I have taken part in, the intensity and competition of debate does not translate into rivalry or animosity towards my competitors. Soon after finishing a vigorous debate round, I find myself relaxing with my “opponents” and having a good time with them. Rather than being driven by rivalry, I am able to devote time to share while still pushing myself to compete to the best of my ability. I have been able to experience the greatness that is America, being enriched by interacting with students who, like me, have roots in far-flung places of the world. My debate travels from California to Georgia, Chicago to Dallas, and everywhere in between, have brought me to places I never dreamed of visiting. This gave me the opportunity to visit many college campuses, opening my eyes to the many possibilities of the future. During three summers, I attended debate institutes at the University of Michigan (twice) and Northwestern University, allowing me to experience firsthand college life and learning how to become independent. I have really enjoyed visiting new places and making new friends and I look forward to doing the same at college.My role as captain of the debate team has provided me with an opportunity to make a contribution to our younger debaters, not only when it comes to skills in argument, but also to the strong work ethic that is a necessary prerequisite to succeeding on the national circuit. Younger debaters can benefit greatly from being coached by a peer. It is a great joy for me to help others grow and succeed in an activity that has given me so much. I am hoping to continue debating at USC and I would love to use my college experience to help out the coaches and debaters of my high school in future years.

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