By: Ditha Balaji
Senior Abel John is well-known for being part of L2 and the vice-president of his class, but little is known about his passion for Speech. Having been a part of Speech and Debate for 3 years and speech captain this year, Abel is a prominent force in the circuit. The Smoke Signal sat down with Abel to learn about his recent accomplishments in the State Qualification tournament as well as his overall experience in speech.
SS: How long have you been in speech?
Abel John: Technically speaking, I started [speech in] the middle of my sophomore year. As you know the club was closed down my freshmen year [and], it started up in the beginning of my sophomore year. I was disheartened that I couldn’t do it my freshmen year, but it was nice to start it up [again]. I wasn’t really that into it until the beginning of junior year. Sophomore year I only went to two tournaments and I wouldn’t even count them as real tournaments, to be honest. So two years I guess?
SS: Did you always know you wanted to be a part of speech? Did you know in middle school that you wanted to do speech in high school?
AJ: That’s actually funny because I remember when I was in eighth grade, the speech and debate team actually went down to Hopkins. They told us to join the club, and showed us little bits of [the] pieces. I was like “This is great. I really want to do it.” So I knew from then on. Freshmen year it wasn’t there, so I was sad. There’s nothing you [could] do about that, but I joined as soon as I could
SS: What events do you do in Speech?
AJ: My main event would be Humorous Interpretation, but I also do Original Prose and Poetry, Dramatic Interpretation, and Duo Interpretation. For State Quals, (the short-hand for the tournament that qualifies you for state) I won in Original Prose and Poetry and Duo Interpretation. I took first in Original Prose and Poetry, so I [qualified] to state. So on the fourteenth of April, I’m heading to San Diego.
SS: How many tournaments have you been to? What’s a successful tournament to you?
AJ: This year, I have actually been to six tournaments: The Martin Luther King Tournament at Logan High School, Berkeley, the First League [tournament], the Second League [tournament], Santa Clara University, and State Quals 1. At MLK, I didn’t break [into finals], but at every other tournament, I did. Success for me is a little different; success for me is not just being on that final stage. Success for me is [when] someone who judged me, comes up to [me] and says, “Hey that’s a really good piece.” Success for me is when my coaches say, “You did a good job. We’re proud of you.” That’s success. Success is when I reflect back on it and I think, “You know, I did my best”, that’s success. If I break to finals or not, if I gave it my all, that’s success.
SS: How long have you been speech captain?
AJ: Technically, I wanted to do it at the end of my sophomore year. In retrospect, it’s a good thing that I didn’t. So, basically [I have been captain] all of this year.
SS: Are you planning on doing this in college?
AJ: Most definitely. Even during my college interviews for the top [colleges] and the Ivy [Leagues], [when] they asked about speech, I said [that] even if the club [doesn’t] already [exist] at the school, I definitely plan on starting it up. It’s something that everyone should just get into. Public speaking is a big thing, not only because it’s entertaining but because it’s a big part of life in general. It’s something that everyone needs in order to get forward. No matter how smart you are, if you can’t communicate with someone you’re worthless.
SS: What are you taking away from speech? Is there any real world application?
AJ: Actually yeah, every time someone asks me this, I remember something my speech coach BJ Cruz told me, “Believe in yourself. If there’s anything you ever learn from me, let it be that.” And that’s what it is. It’s taught me self-confidence. I mean obviously I’m [here, pointing around the leadership room] in leadership. That was definitely a result of joining speech. It’s self confidence. Being able to look someone in the eye and tell them what you really think, without having worries about what they think about you. That’s what speech has taught me.
** Following the accomplishments of Abel John, other speech participants also made tremendous strides in the circuit. Emily Chen and Priya Sundaresan qualified for the 2011 Speech and Debate tournament in San Diego. Frank Chen, Dillon Cho, Silvia Zannetti, qualified for 2011 Speech Nationals being held in Dallas, Texas in June. Silviaalso won two Rotary Club contests receiving cash prizes.