Freshman Daniel Li Goes to Speech and Debate Nationals

Catonsville High School’s Speech and Debate team is made up of various students who all participate in a medley of presentation events. Among these students is freshman Daniel Li, who had his debut in Extemporaneous speaking this year in the Baltimore Catholic Forensics League (BCFL).

As a freshman, Daniel has qualified for two national speech and debate tournaments in extemp: the NCFL tournament, held on May 28-29, 2016 in Sacramento, California, and the NSDA tournament, held on June 12-17, 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah. While Li admits that this is a big accomplishment that he is proud of, he also humbly notes that it may be easier to qualify for nationals in extemp because there are less competitors total.

Carl Klein Sr., the CHS Speech and Debate coach, is very proud of Daniel. He is extremely happy to be working with him and excited for his first-ever national extemp to take on the big competition.

“I believe Daniel has a bright future in his event and will do very well at the two national tournaments,” Klein said.

This year, Li started his work on the extemp event.

I believe Daniel has a bright future in his event and will do very well at the two national tournaments.”

— Carl Klein

“My mom took me to some national tournaments when I was in middle school, and I got to see extempers. That was the first time I had seen them, and I thought ‘man, those guys seem really smart. I want to be smart, too,’ so I decided to start extemp,” Li said.

Briefly, here’s the rundown for extemp speaking: First, students are presented with a choice of three questions. The questions can range from “economic concerns to US foreign policy,” said the National Speech and Debate Association. The students then have thirty minutes to prepare a seven minute speech addressing the topic. They may use any information they gathered beforehand, but may not use internet while preparing. The speech is then performed in front of judges, all by memorization. While extemp involves memorization and presentation skills like other events, it also engages students into research and a deep understanding of current events.

“Extempers deliver their speeches a lot differently than other speakers; they give it very acutely,” newly elected President of Speech and Debate, junior Sky Betz said.

Daniel noted that because of the current events going on, the Syrian refugees situation had been a topic of many questions this past season.

One not familiar with this event may see the immense amount of research and work to be a struggle, but Li has another view.

“The hardest part for me is having emotion when I talk because a lot of times when I talk I sound monotone. For other people, it may be learning about the topics or analyzing them, but that comes really easy to me,” Li said.

Betz, a speech competitor as well, has worked with Daniel outside of school to improve his delivery and overall speaking skills. Betz herself competes in Dramatic Performance and Impromptu, but as an experienced actor, has tips to give Daniel about his performance.

“I work with him on his delivery. He knows exactly what he’s talking about; he just needs some pointers on his performance. His presentation was bland, so I am helping him spice it up without overdoing it,” Betz said.