Month: August 2009

Catching the Worm at the Wake Forest National Earlybird

wakeBy Max Webster[1]

After a summer of camps, workshops, practice speeches, and filing, it’s finally time to shake off the rust, hop back into your suit, and begin the ‘09/’10 season with the first tournament of the year: The Wake Forest National Earlybird. Wake was always my first tournament every year, and I can honestly say that it was one of my favorites. It’s well run, competitive, and located in a great college town. But like any tournament, there is much to Wake beneath the surface, which years of attendance and talking to former competitors will help you to uncover. I hope to provide some of that insight for you. I will share some of the quirks, secrets, and tricks of the tournament that I learned during my years at the Earlybird to help you maximize your potential for success and get the most out of what should be an enjoyable event for everyone. Many of the strategies and concepts I will discuss are also applicable to just about any tournament you attend, so you can use this article as a guide to aid in your preparations for other upcoming competitions as well.

The most important aspect of any tournament is your pre-tournament preparation. The weeks before a tournament that you spend getting your files in order and doing practice rounds with teammates or coaches are the best indicator of what kind of a tournament you’ll have. I truly believe that practice makes perfect and the work you put into extemp well before it’s show-time will pay off in big rounds when you can tackle an obscure question with ease or put a thoughtful and unique spin on a more commonplace question that will keep your judges attention throughout the round and land you the one. This mantra of hard work and preparation is particularly applicable to Wake Forest. During the much-needed summer respite from school, there is usually no coach or judicious teammate pressuring you to file and speak. But if you have been doing that work on your own, then it will certainly show at this tournament more than any other where you will have a huge leg-up on your competition.

Even if you haven’t had time to work a tremendous amount on extemp over the summer – don’t panic. You still have two weeks to put your preparation into over-drive.

Editor’s Corner: The Grand Slam

exfilesept09-01Welcome to the first installment of Editor’s Corner, which will become a regular column in The Ex Files.  In this column, I will devote time to discuss trends in extemporaneous speaking, strategies, and issues that impact that extemporaneous speaking community at large.  If extempers have any suggestions for future editions of Editor’s Corner, please e-mail them to me at [email protected].

The subject of this month’s column will be the “Grand Slam” of extemporaneous speaking.  Chances are that there are not many people out there who know anything about a Grand Slam of extemporaneous speaking.  The phrase was coined back in the 2004-2005 season, when Kevin Troy of Eagan High School in Minnesota went on the most amazing winning streak that arguably any extemporaneous speaker has ever had.  Troy, who had captured the 2003 NFL United States Extemporaneous Speaking title in his sophomore year, tore through the national circuit his senior season and won four notable tournaments:  the Montgomery Bell Extemporaneous Speaking Round Robin, the Extemporaneous Speaking Tournament of Champions, the Catholic Forensic League national championship, and the National Forensic League International Extemp championship.  The victories at the TOC and at NFL were also highly significant.  In the case of the TOC, Troy successfully defended his championship and is the only person to ever win the event twice.  The NFL victory was also historically significant because it was the first, and only time since, that an extemporaneous speaker has captured both the United States and International championships in their career.  Shortly after Troy’s victory at NFL, the website declared that Troy had achieved a “Grand Slam” during the season.

Some sports, notably golf and tennis, have major tournaments.  In the case of the PGA Tour golf circuit and the WTA and WTP tennis circuits there are four tournaments each season that are considered more important than the others.  This special designation makes them “major” championships and some of the greatest who have played those sports have preserved their legacy by winning those championships.  Without a major, you are seen as someone who is lacking something significant, something that makes you stand out from among the rest.

So the question becomes, does extemp have major championships?  Better yet, does it have a clear four major championships to make up a Grand Slam?

Extemp Questions for the Week of August 25th-31st, 2009

1. Does David Cameron need to be more specific about his plans to cut Britain’s deficit?questions
2. Should Israel strongly consider launching a new offensive against Hezbollah?
3. Can Bill Clinton make a difference for Haiti?
4. Is the global recession over?
5. Will the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi strain US-British relations?
6. How can the GOP successfully rebrand itself?
7. Will Obama’s planned reforms to the VA significantly help veterans?
8. Should the Obama administration push to abolish DOMA?
9. How can Obama increase support for the Afghan war?
10. Should the drinking age be lowered to 18?

Also, the first edition of the Ex Files for the 2009-2010 season will be released early next week (if not sooner). Included will be a roundtable discussion of Obama’s healthcare plan, an interview with last year’s National Points Race champion Stacey Chen, a preview of the Wake Forest National Early Bird, a breakdown of point changes in this year’s National Points Race, and more!

Topic Brief: Myanmar’s Struggles

Extempers who are juniors or seniors this year might remember the protests that threatened the ruling government of Myanmar, a country also referred to as Burma by much of the international community, in the fall of 2007.  These protests, led by monks and political dissidents of Myanmar’s military junta, were in response to the junta removing fuel subsidies but eventually acquired a more democratic flavor.  However, this so-called Saffron Revolution was quelled by the beating, imprisonment, and killing of its participants and thus, Myanmar’s second attempt at acquiring a democratic government since 1962 failed.

At a time when globalization has brought a degree of prosperity to the Southeast Asian region and as countries in that region, such as Indonesia, are playing a more prominent role in global affairs, Myanmar’s junta sticks out like a sore thumb.  The junta proclaims that its autocratic governance is justified in order to keep Myanmar’s multi-faceted ethnic groups together under one umbrella.  However, the junta has used its position and Myanmar’s plethora of natural resources, to enrich and protect itself.  This style of governing has turned what was once Southeast Asia’s richest country (during the British colonial period) to one of the region’s most impoverished.

The urgency of this brief is in Senator Jim Webb’s (D-Virginia) recent visit to Myanmar.  During this visit, Webb met with the head of the junta, General Than Shwe, and the country’s most vocal democrat, Aung San Suu Kyi.  Webb’s visit has brought back some international attention to events that are unfolding in Myanmar.  This, coupled with the State Department’s concern about Myanmar’s military ambitions and alliances, makes the country a hot topic that extempers may encounter in the early part of this year.

This brief will provide some background concerning the historical tensions in Myanmar, the circumstances surrounding Webb’s visit, and discuss strategies for the international community to better engage Myanmar.

Extemp Questions for the Week of August 18th-24th, 2009

1.  Are Israeli evictions of Palestinians in East Jerusalem impeding the chance of a two state solution?questions
2. Is the recent decline in unemployment a victory for Obama?
3. Should the U.S. establish permanent military bases in Liberia?
4. Why is militia activity in the U.S. back on the rise?
5. Is Obama’s “talk first” diplomacy failing?
6. Should the U.S. remove the EITM from the State Department’s list of terrorist groups?
7. How can Nigeria fight corruption more effectively?
8. Are Chinese restrictions on foreign “green” technology misguided?
9. Would a carbon tariff policy by the U.S. provoke a trade war with developing nations?
10. Should Obama push for an immigration reform bill next year?

Don’t forget to become a fan of Extemp Central on Facebook to receive the latest updates on site content. Our goal is to get 100 members (we currently have 81) so spread the word! To become a fan, click here.

Extemp Questions for the Week of August 11th-17th, 2009

1.  Is the Obama administration doing enough to decrease home foreclosures?questions
2. Should prisoners be given the right to a DNA test?
3. Does Canada need a free trade agreement with the EU?
4. Why is there such opposition to the idea of Tony Blair as EU president?
5. Should Kenya have created a special tribunal to prosecute those who committed electoral violence in 2008?
6. Did CARS greatly help the auto industry?
7. Should President Clinton be sent to Iran?
8. Can the DPJ successfully bring significant change to Japan’s political culture?
9. Should Ahmadinejad have Rafsanjani arrested?
10. Will rowdy town halls doom healthcare reform?

Topic Brief: Bill Clinton’s Visit to North Korea

As has been the case over the last several years, international attention was focused on North Korea last week as former U.S. president Bill Clinton went on a “humanitarian” mission to seek the release of two American journalists detained there.  Unlike other attempts at international reconciliation with North Korea, Clinton’s visit was a large success, winning the release of the journalists and possibly opening a new arena of dialogue between the U.S. and North Korea over its human rights record and nuclear program.

Clinton’s visit to North Korea was the first high profile U.S. visit to the country since Clinton sent his Secretary of State Madeline Albright there a decade ago.  Under Clinton, tensions between the U.S. and North Korea were high, with some experts predicting a renewed Korean War in the post-Cold War world.  However, thanks to the 1994 Agreed Framework between the two countries, those tensions simmered down until North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2003.

The visit of the former president granted a degree of prestige to North Korea’s ailing leader Kim Jong-il, whose recent belligerent actions in regards to nuclear weapon and missile tests are said to be designed to shore up his standing in the country with the military and ensure that his third son takes his place.  In fact, it has been reported that the North Korean government informed the United States that if President Clinton came to visit them that they would grant the release of the two journalists.

This topic brief will provide some quick background of the dispute over the journalists, explain how the release of the journalists could impact international mediation over the North Korea nuclear issue, and how it could have major political and foreign policy impacts for the Obama administration moving forward.

Elements of Style for the Modern Extemper Now Available As a Printed Edition!

Logan Scisco’s extemporaneous speaking textbook, Elements of Style for the Modern Extemper, is now available for saleelements as a printed edition.  This is meant to satisfy customers who would prefer a physical copy over a digital copy.  The textbook breaks down extemporaneous speaking structure, delivery style, details cross-examination techniques, drills to improve, and much more.

Extempers who prefer a digital copy can buy it for $20. For printed editions, the cost will be $27.50 to take into account standard shipping, binding, and copying charges.

The items are currently available from the SpeechGeek store.

The Season Begins!: Extemp Questions for the Week of August 4th-10th, 2009

Since it is the first Tuesday in August, here are the first questions of the questions 2009-2010 season from Extemp Central:

1. Should the U.S. negotiate with the Taliban to achieve a lasting solution in Afghanistan?
2. How can India maximize its economic potential?
3. Is Obama right on Honduras?
4. Should Blue Dog Democrats be worried about 2010?
5. Does the Fed need more economic power?
6. Can menu labeling laws a good tool in the fight against obesity?
7. What does the Natalia Estemirova’s kidnapping and murder say about the state of Chechnya?
8. Should Cameron cut Ashcroft loose?
9. How can the U.S. increase its leverage over Myanmar’s junta?
10. Do rating agency practices need to be reformed?

Also, don’t forget to become a fan of Extemp Central on facebook to receive the latest updates on web content. You can also join us at Twitter by clicking here.

Finally, don’t hesitate to comment on the posts on the site. User feedback is appreciated!

Extemp Central National Points Race 2009-2010: Top 10 Extempers to Watch

Pre-season rankings, whether we apply them to forensics or professional sports are very unreliable. Simply because pointsraceheader-01someone had a great season the year before does not always foreshadow a great season the next year and competitors who are not yet nationally known are honing their skills during the off-season. However, because pre-season rankings are usually asked of any forensics site, Extemp Central has decided to give a top ten listing of extempers to watch for the 2009-2010 season.

Topic Brief: Budget Deficit Politics

During the “off season” after NFL Nationals, the issue of the budget deficit has come to be a major one in American politics.  It has the potential to shape the outcome of the midterm elections in 2010 and is playing a role in President Barack Obama’s declining popularity ratings.  As extempers get ready for the 2009-2010 season, which starts in less than six weeks with the Wake Forest National Early Bird, they will face questions about an array of economic issues such as unemployment, the effectiveness of the stimulus package, and the level of international trade as well as the controversial issue of healthcare reform.  All of these issues have something to do with the budget of the United States government and by proxy the deficit the U.S. government currently finds itself facing.

Americans in the late 1990s got used to seeing fiscal discipline on Capitol Hill between the executive and legislative branches.  President Bill Clinton worked with Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, a relationship that was often tense through impeachment proceedings and a government shutdown, to craft a budget that was balanced and that ran a surplus totaling $128 billion.  In fact, the major issue of the 2000 election between Vice-President Al Gore and then-Texas Governor George W. Bush was over what to do with this budget surplus, with Gore arguing that it needed to be used to shore up entitlement programs such as Social Security in a “lockbox” and Bush arguing that it needed to be given back to the American people in the form of a tax cut.  After the first presidential debate between the two men in the fall of 2000, Saturday Night Live had a hilarious mock debate over this issue.

2009-2010 Extemp Central National Points Race: First & Second Tier Tournaments

pointsraceheader-01Any rankings system has to have its “premier” tournaments that can be used to evaluate talent. Last year, when the system had three tiers, CFL and NFL Nationals made up the first tier of the National Points Race system. However, this year there is a shakeup near the top, as yesterday it was revealed that CFL Nationals would be a third tier tournament. The first and second tiers will only include one tournament apiece, meant to add greater emphasis to those two events. Today, Extemp Central reveals the two tournaments that have been selected for those tiers to finish up our unveiling of the tournaments that will be part of this year’s National Points Race.

2009-2010 Extemp Central National Points Race: Third Tier Tournaments

pointsraceheader-01The middle tier of this year’s National Points Race is the biggest part of the ranking system, being composed of four tournaments. The first tournaments were selected based on their prestige as “major” events that take place during the first and second semester of the year, while the other two tournaments are tournaments that have fallen in their tier ranking from last year.

2009-2010 Extemp Central National Points Race: Fourth Tier Tournaments

pointsraceheader-01Today, Extemp Central releases the names of tournaments that have been selected for the fourth tier of the 2009-2010 National Points Race. The criteria in selecting these three tournaments for this tier is that they had more participation or higher quality fields than tournaments in the fifth tier, but lacked the prestige and/or the extremely wide participation of tournaments in the third tier.

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