World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships

Article written by Liam Fitzpatrick, 13 May 2014

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Lithuania to compete at the World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships (WIDPSC). From Australia to South Korea, Botswana and the United States, the competition brought together high school students to debate, discuss and suggest solutions to the problems facing our world.

Lithuania was the perfect location for this event. Following decades of Soviet oppression, and suffering under a ruthless dictatorship, it seemed fitting that the nation host a public speaking competition just twenty-two years since its independence. There, we were embraced by the local people and their culture; I will never forget being called up to dance in the city square.

In the keynote address of the Competition, Senior Policy Advisor to the European Parliament, Andrea Pranckevicius, spoke to us about the significance of debate and persuasion in his role in resolving diplomatic disputes across Europe. Something he said consolidated my belief that public discourse is the best solution to conflict; "now, more than ever, debate, persuasion and trust are key in an era of manipulation, distortion and propaganda".

Listening to this speech, delivered by someone so young, I realised the true obligation for youth to contribute to the world's future. Even more profoundly, I realised our immense capacity to do so.

For all of the competition's speech topics, for all of the debate and clash, we were all bound by a common purpose: a yearning to influence the world's progress. I was particularly inspired by Persuasive Speaking Champion Lulutho Ngcongolo’s heart-wrenching account of the realities of being gay in South Africa, a speech so rousing that it was met by a standing ovation at the Grand Final, held at Seimas; the Lithuanian Parliament.

Inspired by the selfless, inspiring and truly Christian actions of Pope Francis, I decided to address the problem of the youth's disillusionment with the Catholic Church. My speech examined policies and practices that are incompatible with the youth's values, such as equality, consistency and trust. I suggested Pope Francis admonish those who distort the Churches message of devotion, equality and charity.

Matthew's gospel includes a plea from Jesus:
"Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

During my time in Lithuania, I grasped the profound nature of this message. Matthew's message is that the questions asked, topics discussed and debates had by the youth must be valued and considered as the voices of the future.

A girl I met, Buipelo Huesi from Botswana (whose name literally translates to ‘Rejoice’) surmised the nature of the competition perfectly, she said that "there's very little that's different in all of our lives; it's competitions like these that bring us all together.”

I would like to take this opportunity to thank CCI, for their generous support for my venture to Lithuania for the WIDPSC. It is because of their support, that I have a restored faith in my generation's desire and capacity to change the world.