Local student’s speech wins top awardPublished 10:38am Thursday, May 15, 2014
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Living in the South comes with a number of challenges; key among them argues Brookhaven High and First Edition Forensics/Debate student Flynn Phillips are common misunderstandings or assumptions placed upon us because of our accents and dialects. Phillips’ well crafted oration on this topic, one of hundreds presented at the National Speech and Debate Association state tournament held April 20-25, won her first place in the state, providing recognition for Brookhaven High School and her debate coach and teacher at BHS, as well as a chance now for Phillips to compete at the national level. Phillip’s 10-minute oration focused on accents and dialects, expressing the need for a broader understanding and acceptance of all vernacular, devoid of opinion. Carol Clanton, who teaches theater arts and speech at BHS, has had her students participate in the tournament for close to 30 years now. Clanton is the head of the forensics/debate team at BHS, which is called the “First Edition Speech and Debate Team.”
In the speech, Phillip’s provides humorous observational quips such as: “So what if I enjoy a big slice of juicy possum pie and like to ride my lawnmower to school – that don’t make me a hillbilly. You see, what folks don’t realize is that hillbillies don’t even like possum pie. We like our possum raw.” Then, Phillips leans towards the point: “Something as simple as the difference between saying ‘ain’t’ or ‘isn’t’ can cost someone their job, damage their public image, or detract from their credibility as a speaker. So, today we will discuss the problems associated with regional accents, next, we will examine some of the causes for this dialect dilemma, and finally, we will explore some solutions to re-think the negative assumptions tied to our tongues.” After providing the reasons to do so, and arguing the intrinsic value of maintaining regional and/or cultural dialect, Phillips says: “Through our discussion of the problems, causes, and solutions explored in this speech, I hope we’ll appreciate dialects as beautiful reflections of our past and essential pieces of who we are. “When I speak, I speak Mississippi, with a twang that sounds a lot like love to me. And I couldn’t be more proud to be standing here in front of you today, accent and all.” Fresh off the award, Phillip’s reflected on her performance during class Tuesday. “I’m excited. I worked on the speech all summer, changing and adding things to it until I was happy with the result,” Phillips said. Now, Phillips will travel to Kansas City on June 20-25 to compete against students from across the country. The National Speech and Debate Association is an interscholastic speech and debate organization serving middle school, high school and collegiate students in the U.S. The association holds yearly tournaments attended by students across the country and beyond. Each year, students participate in various styles of oratory performance and hear diverse perspectives from one another. Participation in the association, and Clanton’s direction, has left a lifelong impression on both the students and those who know them. “This program has helped so many students. Parents have seen such changes in their son or daughter’s reasoning and their ability to express themselves. They tell me quite often,” Clanton said. Clanton’s students often place high in the tournament. When she asks students to stand up that have won some kind of award as finalists or semi-finalists at the tournament, the entire class stands up. Phillips, a BHS junior, plans to take her talents to the next level after she graduates from high school next year but is uncertain where she will go or what she field of study she will pursue. Clanton suggests a career choice of her own to Phillips. The choice is based on Phillips’ aptitude in oration. “She should go into broadcast journalism. She has the intelligence. She also has the looks,” Clanton said.