Speaking in front of large crowds tends to be a daunting task, but one group of students gained national recognition for its ability to stand and deliver.
The Speech and Debate team, made up of the LBJ Debate and Elton Abernathy Forensics Societies, won the Pi Kappa Delta Division I National Championship March 14-17 in Nashville.
PKD is an honor society made up of students, alumni and educators. It was founded in 1911, making PKD the oldest national collegiate forensic organization in America. Texas State received its charter in 1934 and was signed by LBJ’s coach, H.M. Greene. This year’s tournament consisted of individual and team events and hosted 626 students from 82 colleges and universities from 25 states.
Wayne Kraemer, director of the LBJ Debate and the Elton Abernathy Forensic Societies, has been coaching the team since fall 1990. Before coming to Texas State, Kraemer coached at Texas A&M for eight years then at William and Mary in Virginia for four years. He was honored by The South Central Region of Cross Examination Debate Association as coach of the year in 1997 and 1998.
Kraemer said over the years he has seen the impact of speech and debate on students’ lives.
“Oral advocacy skills and critical thinking skills are very important, especially today,” Kraemer said. “You know, there was an outcry after the shooting in Florida. A lot of these students were speaking out, and a lot of the most articulate students were kids that competed on that school’s speech and debate team. Some people were saying those aren’t really students because they can’t be that articulate, but they can because that’s what speech and debate does.”
The first speech and debate team on campus was The Chautauqua Literary Society founded in 1903 as a male-only society. The society underwent various name and structural changes, but the program persisted.
After getting permission from the Johnson family, the debate component of the team’s name was changed to The LBJ Debate Society. President Lyndon Baines Johnson was a member of the team during his undergraduate studies in 1927 to 1930 and the name change was made to honor his legacy.
The speech component of the team’s name was changed to The Elton Abernathy Forensics Society in 2003, named after Elton Abernathy, former communication studies department chair.
Matthew Anderson, communications senior, has been on the team for four years and said he has seen a lot of benefits from joining.
“When I came to Texas State, one of the first things I looked at was ‘do they have a program like this?’” Anderson said. “It’s been very helpful in developing as a person and getting over social anxiety, so I felt I needed that environment in college.”
Lily Montemayor, communications freshman, said there is so much more to being a part of the speech and debate team than people realize.
“A lot of people think it’s just getting up and giving a speech about politics, but it goes beyond that,” Montemayor said. “There’s the whole confidence aspect that you find, there’s seeing your teammates succeed and working with the coaches and just the culture of all of it.”
The team travels to compete at the local, regional and national levels. The team won the National Forensics Association title in 2011, but this is its first PKD national championship win. The team will be attending the American Forensic Association’s National Individual Events Tournament, April 6-8 at Colorado College.
The speech and debate team is open to any students who would like to join. Meetings are held at 5 p.m. on Tuesdays where the teams may work together or split up to practice individual events, but much of the practice is done outside of the meetings. Anyone interested in joining should contact Kraemer at firstname.lastname@example.org.