TAMPA – Some people have trouble listening to both sides of the story.
Jesuit students Jackson Moffett and Cullen Finley not only have to listen to both sides of the story, they have to be able to defend and argue both sides, no matter how controversial.
Both Moffett, a junior, and Finley, a freshman, are on the speech and debate team and have been advancing through local qualifiers all the way to the National Forensic League national championship in Kansas this June. They are also preparing for the National Catholic Forensic League title in Chicago.
In the competitions they are given a subject and told which argument they would take. They don’t have to believe I what they are arguing, they just have to be persuasive.
Moffett and Finley practice often and bounce ideas off of each other constantly. One of their recent debates included arguing U.S. relations with Cuba, Venezuela and Mexico. And they have to prepare to be on either side of the debate.
The subjects can be controversial and difficult to argue, but Finley, who wants to attend the U.S. Naval Academy, said he is learning skills that will help him down the road.
“Right now colleges are looking at people who can develop character skills,” Finley said. “I am learning skills at speaking and it has become a passion to me. I used to be a little nervous, but this has really taught me some skills I can use for the rest of my life.”
Moffett and Finley recently took on a powerful team from Berkeley Prep, a team that Finley said is one of its top rivals. The Jesuit team won easily, 3-1.
Despite the somewhat difficult subjects, Finley said he’s learning to adjust.
“I have always been into politics so I am more open to being able to discuss both sides of an argument,” Finley said. “It isn’t always easy, but we are always prepared because we both follow these things in our off time.”
Moffett also said that arguing both sides of a sensitive subject can be helpful in allowing him to see that there are two sides to every story.
“One of the challenges of being in debate is to see things both ways,” Finley said. “You have to sell it to the judges and make them believe you are passionate in what you are debating. You can never let the judges know if you disagree on something.”
Moffett didn’t intend to join the debate team when he started at Jesuit, but he caught on quickly.
“It just looked like an interesting club,” he said. “Once I started I became really enthusiastic. It’s a real test, but we make a good team.’’