From Case To Cause

Mary Claire Birdsong

Winning isn’t everything .... Now, as much as any students in our league, my partner and I wanted to win. Some people would admonish "debate is about learning" and they would be correct. We do learn in every round, win or lose, primarily because all the debaters in our league show up well-prepared. Losing provides incredible lessons in character, strategy, and comportment. But you can learn while you win, and skip the losing, and that is what we intended to do. We wanted to win at the state level, move on the regional tournament, and finish high enough to be invited to Nationals. Thankfully, we did!

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum. As we researched, debated, and researched some more, we became “hooked” on nuclear energy advocacy. Every tournament represented potentially five or six more opportunities to spread the vision about nuclear power, and specifically the IFR and recycled waste into radio isotopes portion of our case.

We are not shy about telling people about our case, including our ages and background, off the debate platform, either, because it is not merely a couple of kids advocating this nuclear position. We are thrilled to be backed up by renowned, heavy weight champions of science, in the class of Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis - the exceedingly brilliant minds of the last forty years. We’re most proud that the three recommendations in the letter dated February 1, 2010 to the Science Advisor to the White House are truly the best solutions for today’s energy crisis. (See John Holdren Letter on this website.)

Le coup de grace. We did not nail our affirmative debate case every single time, at first. We had to learn how to effectively bypass natural diversions and red herrings thrown our way. But several components always delivered - no matter the judge or audience. Let us start with my personal favorite - a regular thing of beauty. My partner nails this quote like nobody’s business. He relocated it several times, eventually finding the place of maximum effect. After we line up our affirmative plan (1st and 2nd constructives), we steadily increase the heat: cross-x, rebuttals (yes, they are often predictable), and, virtually unassailable scientists’ testimony. Unaided by orchestral soundtrack, he closes the final speech with tympanic resonance:

“Nuclear energy from these reactors is eternal because it can power the world’s needs for more than 100,000 years or, as one scientist put it . . . . . . . until the sun engulfs the earth.”

- Joseph Schuster


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