2011 NCFCA National Championship

Mary Claire Birdsong

Mary Claire Birdsong discusses NCFCA National Debate Championship advocating for Nuclear Power.

This week I had the pleasure of traveling to Gordon College, in Wenham, Massachusetts, to compete in the 2011 culminating event for both debate and speech.

My debate case this year had nothing to do with nuclear energy, and I can’t think of way to relate bilateral trade relations with Russia into the scope of this website.

However, my persuasive speech, “Time Waits for No Man,” covers the subject of nuclear energy in a broad way. This was my first effort at trying to reach a “tabula rasa” audience with the nuclear energy message. Although no audience is truly a blank slate, this audience would be a safe place to chip away at nuclear energy misconceptions and begin to build some positives on nuclear energy - if I proportioned the science details sparsely. I was so inspired by Joseph Shuster’s Beyond Fossil Fools: the Roadmap to Energy Indpendence that I referred to his key message repeatedly: “real energy solutions must begin now.” This might have the effect of a drum-beat, spoken in the right cadence. But, I hope the construction and delivery convey urgency without a false sense of drama.

There’s an old saying: “Time waits for no man.”

Imagine the time-clock. Just like that, ten seconds pass. Just like that, 10,000 barrels of oil were consumed to fuel an insatiable planet Earth -- 10,000 barrels of oil --never to be recovered, reused, or recycled. 10,000 - 10 seconds - gone.

Running out of inexpensive, domestic energy IS a dramatic concept, if citizens allow themselves to consider this. But, so is running out of money to run the U.S. Federal government. Currently, the U.S. is set to hit the federal debt ceiling and essentially run out of money on August 2, 2011, barring new legislation. The fact that experts and politicians could see this day coming years ago does not inspire confidence that the oil crisis will be dealt with any more seriously. A notable difference, however, is when the US runs out of oil, or our allies / suppliers are alienated from us, Congress can not vote us up some oil. The treasury cannot print us up more oil. We will be in a bind that goes way beyond our current $4.00 a gallon inconvenience.

So, it will take many speeches aimed at many audiences, especially grass roots younger audiences, to generate a groundswell of support for nuclear energy. As Dr. Campanella from Penn. State commented earlier, nuclear is not going away. But, there are grave consequences to the current energy policy delay. Incidentally, I came home with a 9th place overall award for the speech. I am pleased with this success, and grateful to my science mentors for their insight and encouragement. I will share some of the comments from my ballots later this week.


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