Academy debaters look to build from successful int’l showing
by 1st Lt. Brandon Baccam
U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
1/15/2014 – U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — Cadets 2nd class Trevor Woodward and Stephen Beaton are spending three hours together daily and countless amounts of time on their own to prepare for their upcoming debate tournament at the University of Utah Saturday.
Hot off a first place tandem performance and first and second place overall at the International Debate Academy tournament in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, Nov. 23 to Dec. 1, 2013, Woodward and Beaton look to continue their streak.
“This was my second international debate tournament,” Woodward said. “I attended IDAS last year as a third-class cadet. I (performed) well but I wanted to do even better this year, so it was extremely satisfying taking first place.”
During their trip, both cadets spent five days attending seminars on a variety of topics and participated in 10 practice rounds before competing in a three-day tournament at the University of Ljubljana, which featured 120 debaters from more than 20 countries.
“(Beaton and Woodward) began distinguishing themselves on the national circuit last year, and have now proven themselves as an international force,” said Dr. Gina Iberri-Shea, an associate professor and director of forensics here. “They represented (the Air Force Academy) well, taking the time to learn about other cultural perspectives, fostering good will, demonstrating high level critical thinking and ultimately winning the tournament.”
What makes Woodward and Beaton stand out from the rest of their competition is that they are a team representing a military academy, traveling to a foreign nation to compete at politically-themed competitions.
“I have received several positive responses from international faculty they have interacted with, noting that the cadets earned their respect and broke down some previously held stereotypes for that unfamiliarity with the U.S. military,” Dr. Iberri-Shea said.
Judges and fellow debaters often give feedback about how cadets’ performance changed their perspective on the U.S. military, Woodward said.
The Air Force Academy forensics team is the longest-running academic club at the Academy. There are currently 20 active members from all four cadet classes. Significant alumni of the forensics team include a number of generals and the Academy’s only member of Congress, former congresswoman Heather Wilson, Class of ’82 (R-N.M. from 1998-2009). The team practices two different formats of debate and more than 10 other speech events, including extemporaneous speaking and poetry.
Woodward and Beaton compete in British Parliamentary debate and regular parliamentary debate, the most popular collegiate debate style in the U.S. While IDAS wasn’t the first time competing overseas for either of the cadets, both agreed sharing their perspective with others is one reason they participate.
“Most importantly, we get to share time and ideas with people from across the nation and even the world in a peaceful manner.” Beaton said. “It also gives us the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills that are imperative as an officer.”