Month: September 2008

Extemp Questions for the Week of September 30th-October 6th, 2008

1. Why did the bailout bill fail?

2. Are workplace raids an effective deterent to illegal immigration?

3. Will the failed bailout hurt the GOP in November?

4. How should the world fight piracy off of Somali’s coast?

5. Is a complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank feasible?

6. Why is India seeing an increase in homegrown terrorism?

7. How important is the upcoming vice-presidential debate between Biden and Palin?

8. Will Ecuador’s new constitution be a boon for the country?

9. Is the Berlusconi government to blame for xenophobic attacks on foreigners?

10. Are voters perceptions of the economy locked in?

Topic Brief: Zimbabwe Unity Government


President Robert Mugabe and his main rival agreed to divide control of the police and army and strike a delicate balance in Zimbabwe’s Cabinet — but their power-sharing deal will be under enormous pressure from long-simmering differences and economic collapse. Some members of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s party have already complained that the compromise didn’t do enough to sideline Mugabe.  Western nations poised to send in sorely needed aid and investment also are wary of the man accused of holding onto power through violence and fraud and ruining the economy of what had been southern Africa’s breadbasket.

Extemp Questions for the Week of September 23rd-29th, 2008

1. Is Congressional resistance to the federal government’s economic rescue plan justified?

2. Will Tzipi Livni be able to form a government?

3. Can Taro Aso reverse the LDP’s political fortunes?

4. Is early voting a good idea?

5. Why did Mbeki resign?

6. Who is the biggest winner of the mess on Wall Street?

7. Will there be a political impact to the Chinese tainted milk scandal?

8. If the Muslim Brotherhood won power in Egypt, how would it change the dynamics of the Middle East?

9. Should standardized tests be administered in public universities?

10. How should the U.S. respond if North Korea restarts its nuclear program?

Topic Brief: The Great Bailout


Wall Street has been on a roller coaster ride over the last few weeks so wild that it would make any Six Flags amusement park jealous.  The salvaging of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac earlier this month was only the first in several steps enacted in hopes of stabilizing the U.S. economy in hopes of staving off a total collapse of the financial sector.  This week, Congress will debate a $700 billion dollar package meant to shore up the rest of the industry.  That sum is most certainly more than pocket money.  The cost of the war in Iraq to date.  12 Bill Gateses.  $2300 for every American citizen.  Any way you write the check, the additional sum would once again raise the national debt to staggering heights.  Thus, the great financial bailout of 2008 is certainly worthy of our analysis.

Extemp Questions for the Week of September 16th-22nd, 2008

1. Should the U.S. have bailed out Lehman Brothers?

2. How should the Obama camp take on Palin?

3. What do recent elections say about Angola?

4. How should the U.S. rethink the war on cancer?

5. Are voting irregularities fixed in time for the 2008 presidential election?

6. Can Stephen Harper and the conservatives win a majority in the upcoming Canadian elections?

7. Should Russia be expelled from the G8?

8. Will the recently brokered Zimbabwe power sharing agreement hold?

9. Should the EU admit Ukraine?

10. Will the U.S. Congress ratify the India nuclear deal?

Strategy: Question Analysis

by Jonathan Carter


What is the first rule of extemp? Answer the question.  In the majority of rounds if you are able to answer the question, you will be one of the top extempers in the round.  When I say answer the question, I mean this very specifically.  Answer every aspect of the question, don’t just use it as a prompt to talk about what you want to discuss.  Because answering the question is so important, this brief is going to explain how to break down a question so that you know exactly what it is asking.  Once you know this, you can formulate a speech that is a direct answer.  Away we go, into how to answer the question land.

Introduction to the Extemp Question Central National Points Race

buzzThe question that has often lingered in the minds of extempers across the nation, especially those who travel the national circuit, has been the question of who the top extemporaneous speaker in the nation has been for that particular season.  In some years, this question has easily been decided by a competitor who has won both the National Catholic Forensic League and National Forensic League national tournaments such as Kevin Troy’s pair of victories in 2005 and Akshar Rambachan’s victories last season.  However, the result that has often occurred is that a collection extempers have won the nation’s top national tournaments and this split provokes the question of who is best.

Although such questions will continue throughout this season and on into ones in the future, Extemp Question Central has introduced the “Extemp Question Central National Points Race” to give extempers some type of way to rank themselves against their opponents.  This points race will give points to competitors based on their performance at recognized national circuit tournaments, both national championship tournaments, and in tournaments that feature distinguished fields such as the Montgomery Bell Extemp Round Robin and the Extemporaneous Speaking Tournament of Champions at Northwestern University in May.  The purpose of the rankings may not exactly be to determine who the best extemper in the nation is, but it hopes to award consistent results by top extemporaneous speaking competitors across three different types of tournaments.

By the time the first issue of this magazine hits the Extemp Question Central website, the first major national circuit tournament of the year, the Wake Forest Early Bird will be nearing its conclusion.  This means that the first listing of this year’s rankings, for the 2008-2009 season, will appear in the next issue.  In each issue of The Ex-Files, this section of the magazine will feature updated points standings, all the way into the CFL and NFL National tournaments, and then giving a final recap with final standings that extemporaneous speaking competitors can look at across the country a week after the NFL National tournament concludes in Birmingham, Alabama in June.

It is Extemp Question Central’s hope that this ranking system will be monitored by the extemporaneous speaking community, and will attract more attention on extemporaneous speaking competitions around the country, especially at CFL and NFL Nationals.

Topic Brief: Public Opinion

topicbriefby Michael Garson

(Author’s Note: Some of the ideas, facts, and vignettes offered in this story are derived from a course taught by Dennis Chong at Northwestern University in the Spring of 2008. Most of the content is also lifted from a lecture given by Michael Garson for the National High School Institute in the Summer of 2008.)

Hopefully this isn’t news to any readers, but you won’t be seeing a Public Opinion round at a major tournament anytime soon. Further, you are unlikely to get “What is public opinion?” in any round. Unlike the overwhelming majority of topic-based articles, this one flies under the radar. However, I would argue in my boundless sense of self-importance that public opinion is as, if not more, important as any other issue. Understanding HOW and WHY public policy is devised and implemented is highly significant. Many extempers have little difficulty explaining why a particular policy is the most effective.  Yet is only the select few (like you, who is reading this article!) can understand how and if that policy can be enacted. Great ideas that are political impossible will never come to fruition. That is the beauty of understanding public opinion: it is one of the most abstract issues but has the most pragmatic and concrete of uses.

Topic Brief: Russia’s Foreign Policy

topicbriefBy Sebastian Pyrek

Recent events in the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, with a special focus on the Russian involvement in the former republic, are strong evidence that Russia is undergoing another resurgence on the international stage. Nearly two decades have passed since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but there is a strong nationalistic spirit that never fell has returned to power; spearheaded by former President and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin this movement has allowed the Russian phoenix to rise from the ashes of the USSR and regain its power on the international stage. Russia’s involvement in Ukrainian and Belarusian politics, Estonian and Georgian post-soviet sovereignty, and international energy markets (to name a few) shows that Russia’s intentions are egocentric at best. Russia‘s recent posturing indicates that its leadership rejects the idea that the international community should be monopolar with the USA in power.[1]

Alternate (Sub)Structure? Yeah Right

strategyBy Omar Qureshi

An Extemper’s dilemma

Extemporaneous speaking is perhaps the most demanding of all forensics activities. It requires the research skills of a policy debater, the theory of a Lincoln-Douglas debater, and the speaking of a polished orator.  However, there are a few key differences between extemporaneous speaking and the previously mentioned events.  The first of which being that in extemporaneous speaking there is no one arguing against the speaker (barring a round with a built in cross examination period), thus a speaker must sufficiently address all arguments in order to have a complete persuasive presentation.  The extemporaneous speech is more analytically demanding than an oratory, and its topics change every round.  Perhaps, the most vital difference is the fact that an extemporaneous speaker only has seven minutes and just one speech to relay to the judge a message.  The speech must include analysis that is as deep-if not more so- than a debate case, while speaking well and engrossing the judge.  For unlike a debater an extemporaneous speaker doesn’t have the option to speed up to include all of his/her information.  This brings up an overbearing burden on the modern speaker: how to most efficiently include arguments while not increasing the rate of delivery.

The clearest way to resolve this issue is to use substructure.  Despite the way that this word strikes fear in the hearts of speakers across the nation, it is actually quite beneficial.  Unfortunately, it seems that the world of extemporaneous speaking has been burdened with adherence to the universal two sub point formula.  This format is highly unspecific and maybe a hindrance to effectively answering a question.   The following paper will seek to resolve this particular quagmire by addressing three specific types of substructure with direct application to extemporaneous speaking.

How IR Theory Can Cure Your IX Problems

by Hunter Kendrick

What am I Missing?

Let’s face it: there is no such thing as a perfect speech. Competing in an innumerable amount of rounds has taught me one thing – the winner isn’t the immaculate speaker, but the speaker who makes the fewest mistakes. Of course, you can always “cover-up” what mistakes you do make by wowing the judges in other areas. And, perhaps the easiest way to wow your audience is to have complex analysis.

Whether you’re a seasoned champion or someone completely new to the event, it’s clear to all that extemp gets “deep.” What I mean is that a speech is not just a collection of random facts, it is the weaving of those facts together into a cohesive answer to the question. Competitors and audience members are often looking for the “deeper meaning” or the “connection.” Sometimes it is easy to find the connection, other times it takes more effort. But, when discussing international relations, it is actually easier to find that deeper meaning than most people seem to believe at first. And, successfully finding those themes (and incorporating them correctly into a speech) can be the jumpstart a speaker needs to propel them towards success.

The Right Way to File

by Mark Royce

Many extempers become slaves to their tubs, rather than letting the files serve them.

The file boxes perennially transported by extemporaneous speakers to tournaments across the country perform a variety of functions.  The most important, obviously, is the assistance they provide to the competitor’s memory: facts, figures, dates, locations, and other very precise pieces of information are quickly accessible in an organized system, such that no precious prep time need be wasted in their retrieval.  Furthermore, most extempers either modify an inherited set of tubs or design their own, which teaches them to organize foreign and domestic issues in meaningful categories.  All the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, would be grouped together, as would intertwined economic issues back home.  I might also add in jest that traversing the country with such ponderous luggage as extemp tubs teaches patience and improves physical stamina, while providing a constant reminder of how technologically antiquated the NFL’s procedures are.  But there is another role which extemp files frequently play that they certainly should not, and the purpose of this article is to warn of the dangers of relating to the tubs in this manner.

Do not the files often assume a kind of idolatrous affection in the minds of those who maintain them?  Do not many extempers, usually of at least intermediate skill, lavish a sort of narcissistic attention on their tubs, taking care to highlight in a favorite color, to ensure that each folder contains a certain number of articles, or to resolve to file for a certain number of hours each day?  Granted, such habits may be the honest manifestations of the quest for excellence: order, method, clarity, and daily attention to the headlines are essential; and a committed extemper is by all means entitled to customize the portable library on which he perpetually relies.  But extempers, as a whole, devote too much time and attention to the files, striving to meet some self-imposed standard of aesthetic perfection as librarians rather than remaining focused on winning tournaments as public speakers.

Extemp Questions for the Week of September 9th-15th, 2008

1. Is John McCain’s surge in the polls sustainable?

2. Are bilateral trade deals more beneficial than multilateral ones?

3. Was the government’s takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac necessary?

4. How would North Korea be different without Kim Jong Il?

5. Should California change its budget-making process?

6. Was the recent EU-brokered Georgia-Russia peace deal a farce?

7. Is the state of US-Libyan relations one of President Bush’s top foreign policy achievements?

8. Should the world do more to assist improverished countries prepare for natural disasters?

9. Should Gordon Brown have endorsed Barack Obama?

10. Is Mexico making progress in its fight against corruption?

Strategy: How to Write An Introduction

strategyby Jonathan Carter


Before you can really get going on the season, there are a few fundamental that are always worth noting.  Many judges will tell you they can get a sense of where a speaker will place in the round within the first minute of the speech.  To that end we are going to focus more on theory and strategy.  In that vein we are going to start with analysis on how to write a quality introduction.  In extemp, a good introduction is supremely important, without one a good speech is impossible.  In a good intro you will set up all of the background for the speech and justify why you speech is the most important in the round.   Moreover, the better the introduction the less work you have to do in the body of the speech.  Follow this formula and your intros will be golden in no time flat.

Extemp Questions for the Week of September 2nd-8th, 2008

1. Is Palin the right VP choice for McCain?

2. Were the GOP’s convention changes appropriate?

3. Should the U.S. be concerned about China’s space program?

4. What does the next generation of Libyan politics look like?

5. Who will be the next Japanese prime minister?

6. Is South Ossetia like Kosovo?

7. What has caused the recent outbreak of political violence in Thailand?

8. Is Europe too indecisive on Russia?

9. Has the U.S. begun to forget about Iraq?

10. What political fallout, if any, will come from the handling of Hurricane Gustav?

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