Eastlake forensics club preaches the power of words
March 27, 2014
By Neil Pierson
Eastlake High School senior Ross Coken believes there’s a virtual color wheel of people who comprise forensics – the world of speech and debate teams.
Coken was one of 10 Eastlake team members who competed at the state forensics tournament, held March 15 at the University of Puget Sound. Although no one reached the finals in their respective events, the Eastlake club qualified a record number of participants for state and has quadrupled its membership over the past three years.
Some team members, Coken said, like to pretend they’re the future lawyers of America because they’re well-versed in arguing. Some are dramatic, good at acting out a scene. Others are just highly intelligent and can speak about any topic.
“It’s a very interesting club in that you get so many people from different walks of life,” Coken explained. “But we all have one thing in common, which is, we love to speak.”
Over the course of seven competitions in the 2013-14 season, Eastlake won 36 individual trophies. There’s a wide variety of divisions to compete in: some require more preparation, and others force the speaker to think quickly.
Six Eastlake students qualified for state in impromptu speaking. They were given a topic and six minutes to prepare a speech.
Andy Mohajeri, a junior, was one of the impromptu speakers, and he said he was “a little on edge” going into his first state-tourney experience.
“I had the mentality that everyone there was just way above the level that I was,” he said. “But as I went further into the tournament, I realized we’re all kind of on the same level … I feel like we were all psyching ourselves out.”
Mohajeri had three topics to work with. One involved a Greta Garbo quote about how “getting bored is the worst thing that can happen to you.” A second topic forced him to expound on the word “curious.” His third speech evolved from a quote about how “life isn’t about holding good cards to begin with – it’s about how you use those in the end.”
Mohajeri felt he wasn’t going to reach the finals, so he just tried to have fun. Part of his speech was about an animated movie, “Turbo,” in which a snail wins the Indianapolis 500.
Coken also competed in impromptu speaking. In the first round, his topic was gravity. He spoke about ways in which humanity has successfully fought against it.
“We can fly a plane up into the sky,” he said. “We can take this rocket into space where there’s no gravity. We can take the anti-aging cream, which gets rid of our wrinkles.”
For Eastlake club president Greg Lauer, the state-tournament experience was different. He competed in expository speech, which involves “informative speaking” on a prepared topic.
Lauer laid out his speech on currency early in the year, honed it at other tournaments and had it virtually memorized for state. His topic was based on the idea that people often don’t know the specifics of items they use every day.
“I focused on the interesting facts, like some people didn’t know there’s a tiny little owl on the one-dollar bill,” Lauer said. “I interpret the whole back side of the bill and the meaning of the pyramid.”
A senior who will be attending the Univ-ersity of Wis-consin next year on a Reser-ve Officer Training Corps scholarship, Lauer thinks expertise in public speaking could prove valuable in the military, and the Eastlake club has been a social boon of sorts.
“One of the great things about speech and debate is there’s a lot of interesting people, really smart and cool people from other teams, and it’s really easy to just go up and start a conversation with them,” he said.
Mohajeri said public speaking can help develop work-related and social-related skills that are important no matter who you are.
“You’re going to need to convince people that you’re a reason for sticking around, that people should pay attention to you,” he said. “If you’re never heard, then no one will ever listen.”