As mentioned earlier, I started out in debate in high school and failed. I had to go to mock Congresses to get some success and win awards. I eventually got into the National Forensic League. When I went to college, I was not thinking very much about going back into debate. I did take Speech courses, but they were mostly filled with preachers, who wanted to try out their latest sermons on the audience. I attended a couple of debates as a freshman, but they were not all that interesting.
After I changed my major to Speech and Drama in my sophomore year, I found debate was more possible. There were three of us on the debate team--Gila, Mike and me. Gila was there mostly to observe and act as a timekeeper. Mike and I were the team. Mike was studying to be a preacher, and he had a good speaking voice. I was the researcher. The two of us made a good team. We went to Clemson to observe how debates were done in college, and then we started participating. We went to Georgia to do our first debate and won. We then went back to Clemson and won. What was our secret? We approached it like a chess match. Anticipate every possible move and be prepared to counter the argument. We spent hours going back and forth on issues. We didn't want any surprises. We became so good that we weren't losing any debates. All we had to do sometimes was to walk into a room and see other team grimace. We went to Lenoir-Rhyne to do a debate, and they put us in a Sunday School room at a church. It was a little strange debating in front of a picture of Jesus, because sometimes the debates would get a little heated. Mike, especially, had trouble with debating in a church. But, we went where we were invited. Anderson College gave us a school car to go to these debates. I liked to drive fast, and once I hit an off-ramp from the interstate going 90mph. We were going so fast that I couldn't stop at the top of the ramp, so we just blew through the stop sign and got on the ramp back on the interstate. Mike would lean out of the car window and yell. We had a good time. Once, we were coming back from a debate and were pretty hungry. Mike suggested we stop at a farm house to see if they had any food. We stopped at this house and told the old couple that we were their long lost cousins from Baltimore. They said they didn't know they had relatives in Baltimore, but they invited us in, and we had a great dinner. We then thanked them and headed back to school.
Every year, Anderson College would host a debate between Harvard and our debate team. There was a lot of pressure on Mike and me to defeat the team from Harvard. This was the big time. I suppose that the Harvard team would say that they didn't get any sleep the night before. I didn't either. They would say that they had car problems getting down to Anderson. One thing you learn in debate though is to leave your problems at the door and do what you have to do. We did. We won. Hands down. By our win over Harvard, Mike and I were ranked in the top ten debate teams in the country. By some accounts, we were number one in the country. Invitations started coming in for us to compete in tournaments all over America. We had to turn them down, because I was involved in doing a play, and Mike had his church responsibilities, but it was flattering to be invited.
After my play responsibilities were over, we got an invitation to come to UCLA. Our expenses would be paid. Mike was very excited to go to California. We were set to go. Then, a conflict arose. Sandra was going to be in the Miss Anderson County beauty pageant. I had helped her with getting her ready for that event. We had rehearsed her song. We had worked on her poise. It was very important to me to be there for her. She needed me to be there for her. So, I had to tell Mike I couldn't go to UCLA. He was crushed. He was mad. Most of all, he was hurt. He didn't speak to me after that, and our debate team dissolved.
In my college yearbook, he wrote that he was disappointed that we didn't go to UCLA, but we still had Harvard. I saw Mike a couple of times after that over the years. He died at a young age of cancer. Sandra came in 4th in the beauty pageant. She and I are still good friends. I often wonder what if we had gone to the debate tournament. Where would I be today?