In 7th grade, my English teacher assigned our class to participate in a debate, “Resolved, that foreign aid is good.” Yes, I know, pretty basic for a debate topic, but we were 12-year-olds. The entire class was required to do research, and then the teacher selected none of us to participate in the debate – four to argue for the resolution, four to argue against, and one moderator. The judges would be the teachers, but the students would also be able to vote by applause.
I was selected for the affirmative side. Also assigned to our team was the guy known as the class smart-aleck, the one the teachers had the most disciplinary problems with. A lot of the kids believed we were doomed to lose because we had somehow gotten stuck with “Roy.” Not to mention the fact that the best-looking guy in the7th grade was assigned to the negative team, and he could make a lot of the teachers blush.
I did my individual research in the New Orleans city library and the Tulane University library. My father dropped me off at the university one Saturday, and somehow I found my way to the building and a helpful librarian. She pointed out that technically the library was supposed to be for only students and faculty but that she would make an exception for me. She smiled when she said that.
We practiced. We rehearsed. We held mock debates within the affirmative team, and threw all the arguments we could find against our position. And we began to see something in Roy that no one else had ever noticed. He was a smart-aleck, yes, but he was also smart. He was articulate
The debate was a big deal. We would be speaking in front of the entire 7th grade – some 200 kids, 10 teachers and a bunch of people from the administrative office. What really convinced us it was a big deal was that we had to wear coats and ties.
We had a strategy. I was captain of the affirmative side, and I was positioned as first affirmative – to lay out our major arguments in favor of the resolution. We assigned Roy as second affirmative rebuttal – the last one to speak in the debate. The class smart-aleck would have the last word. Now everyone knew we were doomed, because the teachers hated Roy.
We did well. We held our own. The negative side was no set of slouches, however, and they had prepared as well. But you could say the affirmative side had a slight lead going into the home stretch.
Roy stood up. With the booming voice that drove his teachers to threaten violence, he swooped in on the negative arguments like a giant hawk. And destroyed them. When he finished, the entire audience was on its feet, cheering. It was just like one of those movies except it really happened.
The affirmative side won. For the first time in his life, Roy was a hero. And it completely changed his life.
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but some kinds of resolutions are good things.