As we enter the debate season for the US Presidential Election, we’re reminded of the National Speech & Debate Association that was founded 95 years ago as a support and recognition program for high school students interested in growing their public speaking skills. Communication is something that can make or break the most visible and scrutinized job interview: the run for president.
Founded at Ripon College in 1925, the organization was created to motivate high school students to participate in speech and debate activities, noting the importance of public speaking as a life skill. The National Speech & Debate Association “...connects, supports, and inspires a diverse community committed to empowering students through speech and debate.” They state that their vision is “a world in which every school provides speech and debate programs to foster each student’s communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creative skills.”
Communication is an immeasurable skill that follows you for life and can play a huge role in your career success. Just ask Oprah Winfrey who participated in the national NSDA nationals competition when she was in high school. Other household names who were active members of their high school and college debate teams: Adam Sandler, Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X, Bruce Springsteen, Margaret Thatcher, and James Earl Jones.
The organization has its own honor society that recognizes middle school and high school students for their participation in speech and debate activities, mostly through competitions, one of which they host annually for the top debate students around the country. According to their website, “...students earn distinction through speech and debate competition, as well as community service, public speaking, and leadership activities.” In order to qualify for membership, students must earn a required number of Merit Points in categories of debate, speech, congress, and service. Once they’ve received the minimum of 25 points, they’re on track with their Degree Levels. There are nine Degree Levels ranging from Member to Premier Distinction with each level having its own seal or badge. Coaches also receive recognition for guiding students to higher levels of NSDA.
You’ll recognize members of NSDA on graduation day by their red and gray honor cords.
We’ll be watching the national debates closely in the coming weeks and wondering if any of the candidates participated in National Speech & Debate Association competitions!
Are you a member of NSDA? How has it shaped your post-collegiate life? Let us know in the comments!