When you compete out of Hawai'i in any endeavor, athletic or intellectual, there is always an added challenge posed by isolation.
Because of fiscal constraints, the Debate and Forensics Society at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa sends one or two teams to a few tournaments each year, and they have historically experienced limited success because we aren't familiar with the prevailing discourse and are always the away team.
That changed today. Giraldine Duff and I placed second at the Pan American Debating Championship in a field of nearly 70 teams. Debaters from around the Western Hemisphere attended the competition in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
In the final round, we argued against the motion, "This house believes that former colonial powers should unconditionally apologize for colonialism and provide reparations to former colonies."
Before an audience of hundreds and countless others listening into a live nationwide radio broadcast, we argued that the violence of colonialism cannot be monetized, that money cannot remove the shadows of colonialism and that compensation is not an event, but an ongoing process.
Ultimately, we took second to an excellent team from Yale on a 4-3 split panel decision. And I was recognized as the third top speaker at the tournament overall, just behind the two speakers from Yale.
Giraldine and I have worked hard at this for months now, but it would be arrogant and disingenuous to claim this as a solely personal success.
We have been working for eight years now at the University to build a debate program that will bring pride to our home. The work started before me with Rob Boller, Daniel Anthony Hugo and Ryan Michael Delaney.
It continues after me with Giraldine, a sophomore, one of the fiercest competitors and hardest-working people I know. With Kenneth Go, a brilliant freshman who thought he couldn't debate while also preparing for medical school but has proven able to do both with skill.
And the work is made possible by Daniel Hugo and Jonathan Cham and Cody Hensarling, coaches and mentors who have volunteered their time and wisdom to help prepare our team for success.
I return home feeling ready to compete in Atlanta at the United States Universities Debating Championship in early April, but also looking forward to hosting our intramural tournament at home on April 16; running a training institute for high school and collegiate debaters during the summer; and recruiting new members and mentoring them in the fall.
Success is not an event, it is a process. We have more work to do!