US Universities Debating Championship

I want to thank the coaches and friends who helped me realize my potential as a debater. Rob Boller and Jonathan Cham for encouraging my start; Daniel Hugo and Cody Hensarling for support since I returned to the University of Hawai‘i two years ago; and all the judges, competitors, partners, and teammates in between.

Five years of debate taught me a lot. I learned to think on my feet and improvise. I learned to listen, to seize the moral high ground, to simplify my arguments, and to choose my words carefully. But I also learned that humans are fallible and prejudiced judges. I witnessed teams (my own, at times) win rounds with blatantly false arguments. Moreover, it took me a year away at Harvard and two years of draining international travel to raise the profile of Hawai‘i debate.

Ultimately, I've learned that debate is not where I'd like to live. I appreciate conversations devoid of competition. I have no desire to beat anyone; I'd rather learn from them. And I'm often frustrated at the way debate rewards superficial and errant ways of understanding complex issues. Though I've met many brilliant and inquisitive people through debate, I've met many more whose curiosity extended only as far as victory.

Giraldine Duff is one of the best people I've met, and partnering with her has been my privilege. She is kind, intelligent, and tenacious. In three semesters, we competed at nine tournaments in four countries. Of these, we broke at six. Of those breaks, three resulted in runner up finishes. And this weekend, we finished in the semifinal round at the United States Universities Debating Championship–sharing the top eight with teams from Stanford, Yale, Harvard, Cornell, and Bates. There's no disputing our status as the best university team to ever compete out of Hawai‘i, and that's something I'll keep with me.

But more than any victory, I'll hold on to the moments between rounds, just chilling and chatting. As I step back from this activity, I hope to stay in touch with all the people I've met. Though I won't be around much at tournaments in the future, I'll be available online, and you all can find me for conversation over coffee in the greatest city on Earth, Honolulu!

Hawai‘i DH: USUDC semifinalists; donut enthusiasts.

Hawai‘i DH: USUDC semifinalists; donut enthusiasts.

Western Regional Championship

After two long days of preliminary debate rounds in Tacoma, Giraldine Duff and I ranked second at the 2017 United States Universities Western Regional Championship. We then advanced through the quarter and semifinal rounds to finish runner up in the final round. Our novice team, Drake Miyake and Anna Davide, broke to novice finals. Giraldine ranked fifth best speaker, and for the first time at an off-island tournament, I ranked top speaker.

Thanks to Justin Eckstein for hospitality, Jacob Witt for efficient tabbing, and Josh Martin for "creative" info slides. You three, and many more who I cannot name, ran a superb tournament. Congratulations to the other finalists from Alaska and Willamette, and especially to the fantastic champion team from Denver.

As always, thanks to our coaches: Jonathan, Daniel, Cody, Justin. Without your support these last two years, we wouldn't be able to compete at this high level. We take all our training and tournament experience with us to Denver in three weeks for nationals!

Pan American Debating Championship

A week and a half ago, Giraldine and I competed at the Pan American Debating Championship, held this year at the University of La Verne in California. We ranked second (only to Yale!) overall with 16 points after preliminary rounds and advanced to the semifinal, but we did not proceed to the final round. Giraldine ranked fifth top speaker; I ranked second. We'll carry this experience with us to our next tournament: Western Regional Championship, this weekend in Tacoma, Washington!

World Universities Debating Championship

While I did not accomplish my stretch goal of winning or my moderate goal of breaking, Giraldine Duff and I still achieved the best result ever by the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, ranking 80 of 370 teams from around the world. For more perspective, only fourteen American universities ranked ahead of us.

Thanks to our coaches Daniel Anthony Hugo, Jonathan Cham, Cody Hensarling, and Justin Bongco. For more than a year, they volunteered to provide guidance and support for the team, and I have benefited most from their efforts. To have learned from these brilliant men is one of my greatest blessings.

Thanks to all the people who contributed to help our team make it to competition. Mentors, Robert Aune, Sean Tadaki and Eric Paul Shaffer. Fellow competitors, Cole Limbach and Scott Porter. And friends new and old, LeaDan Yee and Giancarlo Minga. We could not have made it to the Hague without your help.

Thanks to Kenneth Go for all the great jokes and joke opportunities. You are a stellar travel companion. The future of Hawai‘i debating is bright because of your dedication to improvement and positive attitude toward competition. Now, all you have to do is come to practice, haha.

But the greatest thanks go to my partner Giraldine. In the last year, we competed in Honolulu, Jamaica, Atlanta, Toronto, New Haven, and the Netherlands. After hundreds of hours of practicing and debating together, I still enjoy each round with you. And for the first time ever, I felt completely at peace after a tournament, disappointed only that we did not have the opportunity to debate again.

Hawaii A: Best dressed, best team.

Hawaii A: Best dressed, best team.

Yale Intervarsity Parliamentary Tournament

I'm back in Hawai‘i after a weekend on the east coast with the University of Hawai‘i debate team competing at the Yale Intervarsity Parliamentary Tournament, one of the largest and most prestigious tournaments in North America. We all had a great time.

Our two judges, BJ Sisounthone and Drake Miyake, both chaired multiple rounds of preliminary competition and enjoyed the nightlife in New Haven. Our novice team, Kenneth Go and Jacques Brunvil, finished on 9 of a possible 18 points, a great result for them.

My partner Giraldine Duff and I finished preliminary rounds ranked 9 of 170 teams. We advanced to quarterfinals, the first time a team from Hawai‘i has advanced to elimination rounds at this tournament. Unfortunately, we did not make it to semifinals, but we learned a lot. Later it was announced that of more than three hundred speakers, I tied for fourth top speaker with the fantastic Harry Elliott (who was top speaker at last year's US national championships!). It was, as always, a privilege to travel. Now, to put my nose to the grindstone until Giraldine and I compete in the Hague for the World Universities Debating Championship. Seven weeks to prepare!

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Hart House Invitational Debate Tournament

Giraldine and I narrowly missed the break from preliminary to elimination rounds at the Hart House Invitational Debate Tournament. We were tied for sixteenth out of one hundred teams, and the tiebreaker relegated us to the audience for the quarterfinal, semifinal, and final round of competition.

This is, obviously, disappointing. But we had a great time in Toronto. We made new friends, reconnected with old friends, and introduced our adjudicator Kenneth to poutine. We took notes, and we'll be ready for our next outing in three weeks at the Yale Intervarsity!

Capitol Debate: Pesticide Buffer Zones

Last night, I represented the University of Hawai‘i in an exhibition debate against a team from Hawai‘i Pacific University. Giraldine Duff, Kenneth Go, and I were ultimately victorious, arguing against the establishment of pesticide buffer zones around schools and hospitals. Furthermore, Giraldine earned top speaker honors for a stellar whip speech. The video is available for viewing here.

This result bodes well for the team. In October, the three of us will attend the Hart House Intervarsity Debating Tournament at the University of Toronto. Then, we'll compete at the Yale Intervarsity in November. At that tournament, we'll be joined by Jacques Brunvil, Drake Miyake, and BJ Sisounthone. Finally, we'll end 2016 in The Hague, Netherlands for the World Universities Debating Championship.

Until then, we'll continue plugging away at practice three times a week. The work is long and hard, but the reward is great!

Me, Kenneth, Giraldine, Jacques

Me, Kenneth, Giraldine, Jacques