A senior at Park High School by the name of Olivia Bedard is bound for “the largest academic competition in the world”. That is how the National Speech & Debate Association (NSDA) describes …
A senior at Park High School by the name of Olivia Bedard is bound for “the largest academic competition in the world”.
That is how the National Speech & Debate Association (NSDA) describes its National Speech & Debate Tournament. Every June, over 4,500 high schoolers partake in it, speaking to secure the honor of “national champion” in their category. Some participants perform the pieces in which they have spent months polishing. Others will debate an issue that they had approximately six weeks to research. Concluding these five days of preliminary and final rounds, is an awards ceremony. Tens of thousands of people across the United States pause daily life to witness the ceremony virtually or live. In essence, The National Speech & Debate Tournament acts as a grand finale for each speech and debate season. Around 140,000 NSDA members are left anticipating the coming season.
Due to the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to negatively impact the country, slight adjustments have been made to the traditional tournament outlined above. “After months of careful consideration, we have made the decision to host the 2021 National Speech & Debate Tournament online for middle school and high school students…” NSDA’s website informs.
Although this year’s national tournament has been modified, it is fortunate that it is still arranged. Bedard has worked vigorously during the 2021 Speech season. First of all, she prepared three performances of unrelated categories. By competing with a Prose, Original Oratory, and Drama Interpretation piece, Bedard heightened her odds of qualifying for Nationals. Furthermore, she participated in eleven distinct Speech competitions. This includes a couple of intense invitationals and a Sections meet hosted by Rosemount. The dedication to Speech that Bedard portrayed steadied her on her journey to Nationals. However, it was her attendance at an NSDA-sponsored district tournament that deemed her eligible to register for the 2021 National Speech & Debate Tournament.
The NSDA Central Minnesota District Tournament took place on March 11th and March 13th. Bedard double-entered in this competition. She performed her Drama Interpretation, labeled by the NSDA as a “Main Speech” event, and presented her Prose piece, which is considered a “Supplemental Speech” event. Going into this tournament, Bedard already knew that she was heading to Nationals. She could either earn 4th, 3rd, 2nd, or 1st place in Drama Interpretation and enter the “Main Speech” event at Nationals or simply perform her Prose piece to register for the “Supplemental Speech” event at Nationals. In short, because she partook in a “Supplemental Speech” event at The NSDA Central Minnesota District Tournament, she cemented her seat at the 2021 National Speech & Debate Tournament.
On the evening of Tuesday March 9th, this news was delivered to the Cottage Grove teen. Immediately, she felt emotions varying from anticipation and gratitude. “I was pretty excited because up until this point, I’ve been really nervous because…you [usually] have to be top four to qualify for the National Tournament, so I’ve been really nervous, you know, not knowing if I would break to finals…[the NSDA] altered the rules this year to offer more opportunities to more students. I was really, really grateful for that…’’ Bedard revealed during an interview with The Journal.
Throughout high school, Bedard observed as many of her peers advanced to National Speech & Debate Tournaments. She was inspired by them to aim higher in Speech. Now, Bedard has reached what she labels, “the next level”. The Journal wondered what becoming a national-qualifier meant to her. Bedard responded, “I think that going to Nationals, for me, kind of means…I don’t want to say that I’ve made it because…Speech, it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about your performance…it’s going to be a great, you know, endcap to my senior year.”
Bedard will be single-entering at her first National Speech & Debate Tournament. On Tuesday, June 15 2021, she will begin attending her online rounds. That following Saturday, the final rounds and awards ceremony will take place. If one sees Bedard around town until then, they can wish her good fortune.