For three days, regional competitors from Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi used the talent of speech and debate to determine their state champions at the 5th Annual Southern Forensics Championship Tournament.
Taking place Jan. 30-Feb. 1, the competition offered parliamentary debate, public debate, both team and individual, and the standard 11 AFA-NIET events.
John Brown University’s Brad Johnson, Justin Burchfiel and Megan Chapin each placed first in their respective events.
Through her passion about prescription drug awareness in her persuasive speech, freshman Megan Chapin is now the Arkansas Champion of Persuasion.
The passion behind her speech involves her personal story as her winning persuasive speech involved a story about
a man who died from narcotic and prescription drug abuse.
“I have chronic diseases, specifically crohns disease and heart problems. I know that struggling with daily pain is something that is hard to overcome and you have to make sure you are doing it safely,” Chapin said.
Chapin stressed the importance of being mindful of communication with doctors, making sure patients understand what they discuss and not being afraid to ask questions.
“Doctors don’t even care sometimes, and can just keep prescribing drugs. Because some of them work with drug companies and can be in it just for the money,” Chapin said.
Although Chapin had three years of experience in speech and debate, this is her first time to place. With her new title, she earns a bid to the Interstate Oratory Championships to be held at Berry College in Georgia in May.
Chapin believes that persuasive speaking is an important life skill we all need to have.
“I don’t think you can do much without persuasive speaking. Your whole life you are trying to persuade people how you are better than somebody, or why you should get a job,” Chapin said.
The Southern Forensics Champions of Team Public Debate and the state champions of Arkansas First are John Brown students Brad Johnson and Justin Burchfiel. Brad Johnson is the top Parliamentary Debate Speaker of Arkansas.
Concerning this weekend’s tournament, Johnson said, “It was an honor to see JBU awarded the state championship.
I am thankful for the opportunity to represent JBU and am glad the results reflect well on the strength of our institution in developing critical thinkers.”
Johnson has competed in competitive forensics for over six years now and said he still gets nervous before rounds.
To deal with the nerves, Johnson said focusing on deep breathes and concentrated thinking on the debate topic at hand often helps.
“Public speaking is an inherently stressful thing for most people to do, and I do not count myself as an exception to that rule,” Johnson said.
Chapin added that, in her experience, she has seen nerves handled poorly. Last year, in a debate round, she witnessed a contender wet his pants and another was brought to tears.
The anxiety in the rounds is intense, but Johnson said, “Strong verbal communication skills are both necessary and invaluable. But perhaps more importantly, the critical and logical thinking skills that debate has entrenched in my mind play a significant part in preparing me for anything I do in the future.”
Sophomore Justin Burchfiel has known Johnson as a friend and fellow competitor for seven years. Both come from the same homeschool debate club in Texas.
Burchfiel said, “My mom told me, when I first started debate, she would make me do it until we wanted to do it, and she kept her word.”
Now an engineering major at the University, Burchfiel still sees the value of speaking and learning how to communicate well.
“What kept me going was wanting to win a tournament and my senior year we went to nationals and eventually won the Texas state championship,” Burchfiel said.
He has seen the difference between college debate and high school debate and is currently coaching a homeschool debate team similar to the one he used to debate on.
“Winning the tri-state tournament this weekend was so exciting!” Burchfiel said.