On Top of the World

Tenley Rooney
Josh '19 places second at world debating championships

Whenever the Debate Team needs to grasp a complicated international situation, eyes and ears turn to teammate Josh Beirich ’19. The Sixth Former, known among his peers for his recall on global affairs, has dissected everything at the dry-erase board, from how the U.S. healthcare system works to the history of Afghanistan. He attributes his breadth of knowledge to his nonfiction and news-reading habit with helping him harvest tidbits of information.
Beirich’s curious nature and quick wit earned him a second place finish at the World Individual Debate and Public Speaking Championships (WIDPSC) held in Toronto, Canada, April 11-17. He was one of more than 130 teens worldwide to compete in this test of rhetoric and academic limber. To take part, students need to qualify by placing first overall in a qualifying tournament, or through a similar performance at national and international meets. Beirich qualified three times over by placing first in a trio of competitions in the Debating Association of New England Independent Schools (DANEIS), the league in which St. Paul’s School competes.
At the WIDPSC, participants needed to compete in four of five different formats: interpretive, impromptu, persuasive, and after dinner speaking, and debate. Beirich made it to the grand finals in the debate classification. While the other disciplines required reading a prepared speech, the debate format placed competitors with a partner chosen at random and challenged them each to form a nine-minute argument with only 30 minutes preparation. They verbally sparred with opponents on issues such as removing all legal barriers to the genetic enhancement of humans and granting reparations to historically oppressed groups.
Following three days of competition, Beirich progressed to the finals and grand finals of the debate bracket. He placed second for his argument on the topic of revoking the citizenship of all individuals who travel or have traveled to the Middle East to join known terror groups.
His achievement at WIDPSC is a fitting bookend to his time spent with the Debate Team. When Beirich recalls trying out for the team his Third Form year, he cringes. He faltered in front of the team's captain, but the newcomer to public speaking kept at it. Not long into his first season, Beirich earned third place at a tournament, and an increase in confidence soon followed. "It's empowered me in ways I never expected," Beirich says of finding his voice.
Beirich’s SPS Debate Team days are not done yet. He will return to the podium with the team for a final DANEIS match at Deerfield on April 28.