I was delighted to see large state championship banners for both athletics and debate prominently draping the gymnasium and cafeteria walls of the storied Eagle High School near Boise, where for two days on a recent weekend, hundreds of high school students from throughout Idaho competed in a debate tournament won by Rigby High. I was there tagging along with teams from eastern Idaho as an out-of-state guest, recruited as a volunteer judge by my son-in-law, who is a teacher. As a grandfather to a future Idaho student, I came away impressed with the emphasis that Idaho uniquely places on speech and debate in your school curriculum and competitive activities. While judging, I listened to well-mannered students intensely deliver analytical arguments about the plea-bargaining system, while others gave impromptu speeches about topics drawn from a hat, following only minutes of preparation time. For most adults, and for students from most other states, public speaking generates visceral fear. For the hundreds of Idaho students who participated that weekend, competitive speech training will endure as a valuable life skill and as a source of internal confidence for decades after they finish school.
M. “Welcome” Sauer, grandfather and business executive, Wenatchee, Wash.