urban debate

Alumni Perspective: Finding My Place(s)

Debate as Art

August 15, 2022 – To top off my amazing experience as a NAUDL Fellow, I chose to do a three-part digital art series based on my most memorable places in debate. Each of these pieces are moments in my high school debate career that are dear to me.

Part 1: “Rigor” — This piece was inspired by the classrooms and academic spaces I entered as a debater.

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I still remember how anxious I was when I went to my first tournament, walking into my first classroom to debate. Walking past those competitors in suits, their laptops in tow, reciting evidence faster than I could comprehend, made me wonder if I’d be able to compete in this activity. But then I paid attention, looking at the anxiety on those debaters’ faces. The self-conscious question of “can I do this?” that was running through my mind, was also written on each of their faces. I realized that everyone—even the most accomplished debaters—were just as nervous as I was. From that point on, I realized that I wasn’t alone.

Part 2: “Time To Myself” — This piece was inspired by those times in-between rounds.

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The first time I won a round was exhilarating. That feeling of accomplishment, the fact that I was wrong about my ability to compete in debate — that I was more than capable, was something I never thought I’d feel. I’d think about that feeling as I walked out of the debate rooms, alone with my thoughts as I silently strolled around campus back to my team. As I walked, I realized why I felt so great, regardless of how my rounds went: joining debate was an avenue for me to express myself. I finally felt comfortable with who I was, and I realized that I could be whatever kind of person I wanted to be if I put my words and my mind to it.

Part 3: “Community” — This piece was inspired by the moments I shared with my teammates after rounds.

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Debating against each other wasn’t the only avenue of connection I had with my debate league. Those times in between rounds were also near and dear to my heart. I remember after competing at a national tournament, everyone in my debate league all piled into this wonderful restaurant near UC Berkeley. The excited conversations of how our rounds went served as the soundtrack as we spent the rest of our evenings together.

Everyone has a place in debate. Whether you came for the competition or for the people, you can always count on debate to give you a reason to stay.

Ansell Jude Gadingan is a 2022 White & Case Alumni Fellow and an alum of the Silicon Valley Urban Debate League in California. He is currently a Digital Media Art major with a minor in Interaction Design at San Jose State University.

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