Day 2 in Lincoln, Nebraska

Debate was actually what we went to Nebraska for, so we were excited to move on from Speech. Two items of interest regarding the tournament: First off, there were only debate teams there, so the tournament actually functioned as a round robin with five prelim rounds which would have broke to a final. What the tournament lacked in quantity, it made up in quality; with two St. Olaf teams, three Bethel teams, and a really skilled team from Hastings, Nebraska, there wasn’t a round we didn’t have to exert ourselves. The other thing is that the host of this tournament, Dr. Michael Dreher from Bethel, seems to write resolutions far more in line with what we think Parli is supposed to be (as opposed to the ambiguity we saw at the Vocal Viking).

Round 1: “The United States Federal Government should substantially change its immigration policy.”

I heard “integration” policy when this topic was announced, and panicked a bit thinking I’d have to talk about race relations in the U.S. or something. There’s really not a whole lot to say about this round, immigration is one of the more vanilla subject areas every debate team will cover in a practice round, so we were ready.

Round 2: “The United States Federal Government would make a significant investment in infrastructure.”

Public transportation really seemed to be a popular interpretation of this resolution. We heard one interesting case about building high-speed rails alongside interstate highways, or maybe even right in the medians. The claim was made that it’d be really cheap since all of the foundation work is taken care of in the highways. You learn such interesting things in debate.

Round 3: “The United States Federal Government should substantially change its foreign policy with Venezuela.”

Raffi and Rikaela were Opp, and Kevin and I were Gov. Kevin and I had the unfortunate realization during prep time that we knew almost absolutely nothing about Venezuela. It was pretty sad. Here’s a representative sample of our prep dialogue:

“Do they have any sort of chief import that we could put a tariff on?”

“No idea. Oil, I think.”

“Do we put tariffs on their oil or other stuff right now?”

“No clue.”

“Umm… That’s Hugo Chavez, right? I’m pretty sure he’s really sick and going to die pretty soon.”

“Yeah, that seems right.”

We ran with the Hugo Chavez thing, saying that him dying really soon was an inevitability, and that elections would follow shortly after. Venezuela’s had corrupt elections in the past (we’re pretty sure), and so we said we would monitor the next Venezuelan presidential elections. We would then threaten that if hypothetically Venezuela significantly violated any election standards as set forth by the UN, the U.S. would place an embargo on allĀ Venezuelan products. The Venezuelan people, so scared of the resultant economic collapse within their country that would clearly come from a U.S. embargo, would have no choice but to do elections right. This results in better U.S. Venezuelan relations since they’re so grateful for us making democracy possible, cheaper oil for the U.S., better relations with Cuba and an end to communism in Cuba (Venezuela’s buddies with Raul, and Venezuela now loves us), and a precedent is set that lets democracy flourish in all of Latin America.

We’ll admit we’re not proud, but somehow we managed to pull a win. Needless to say, Kevin and I will surely brush up on our Latin American foreign affairs before the next tournament.

Round 4, “The United States Federal government would substantially change its foreign policy with Mexico.”

Starting to see a pattern here? Being that the tournament was a round robin, this was the round where the two Olaf teams hit each other. I won’t comment on this one too much, because we both pulled some of our favorite little tricks. Raffi and Rikaela came up with a very creative interpretation of the resolution (all while being topical) that left Kevin and I struggling to generate any solid responses, so they won the round pretty handily.

Round 5, “The United States Federal Government should reject Keystone XL.”

This was another pretty standard policy round. We were both Opp, and reflecting back on the rounds, we decided we should have focused on environmentalism more. Not hammering how this pipe would affect wildlife enough, the Gov teams were able to beat us out based on how we would have access to much cheaper oil.


In the end, Kevin and I were 3-2 and Raffi and Rikaela went 2-3. It was a little disheartening to not have either of our teams in finals, but like I said earlier, this was a tournament with a really strong pool of contenders, and we couldn’t rely on having at least one “gimme” round during prelims. The cool thing is that all of our ballots were written by people with lots of debate experience, so we’ll be sure to get some intensive critiques and coming swinging at the next tournament. Look for us at the Icebox Classic at St. Cloud State University February 2nd-3rd!

– Alex


Day 1 in Lincoln, Nebraska

So today the St. Olaf Debate Team broke out of their comfort zone and did Speech. That’s right, Speech. The Sleet and Snow Swing (or the Sleet and Sun Swing, they keep changing the name on us) is actually composed of two separate tournaments, both held at Concordia University – Nebraska. However, Concordia only runs the first tournament, and Bethel University (from Minnesota) runs the second. We’re not really sure about the story behind that. Anyways, day one does not feature Parliamentary Debate, so Kevin and I did Persuasive. Rikaela and Raffi declined to do Speech, but will be debating tomorrow.

First off, Kevin and I were definitely kind of winging it. I had my speech more or less memorized, but I definitely forgot random paragraphs during rounds. Kevin went for more of an Extemp approach and just had sources, some talking points outlined, and a couple of pieces of rhetoric and maybe an intro, but beyond that delivery varied quite a bit each time. Kevin did a cool piece on national standards in education and how certain states lie to themselves by just setting proficiency standards lower and lower. I had a pretty vanilla piece on gun control.

Neither of us ending up making finals, which didn’t surprise us, given the previous paragraph. I went to go to watch finals though, and it’s amazing how formulaic a successful Persuasive is. In reality, Persuasive is a misnomer. It should be “Scary Things You’ve Never Heard of That You Can Do Something About”. None of the other topics chosen were even close to being controversial or well heard of, meaning the speakers didn’t have to fight to “persuade” anyone. They were excellent speakers and gave compelling presentations, but it was a little unsettling to see how much “speech culture” dictated content.

We’re ready to brush all of that off though and go full-bore during Parli tomorrow. We found out that the tournament is offering fair trade art in lieu of trophies; there’s some really cool looking rock things, and we want them. Check back in tomorrow evening (or maybe Monday morning) for an update!

– Alex

P.S. Kevin got a critique stating: “Cool take on the topic, but I struggle to buy the benefits to nationalizing testing because of the implicit racism in standardized testing in general. If testing is set up by straight white men, it will lead to more discrimination.” Gosh Kevin, how did you not solve for discriminating against non-white people and homosexuals while talking about education standards.