Five Life Skills I Learned From Debate

Five Life Skills I Learned From Debate

Seriously, I probably learned more here than I did in class.
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Debate season is starting up again! I first began debating during my freshman year of high school. Sometimes I wonder why I've spent the past eight years involved in this activity, but then I remember debate has forced me to grow in many ways. And while it is a school activity, the lessons learned extend far beyond the classroom.

In honor of the new season, here are five important lessons debate taught me:

1. Examine both sides of an issue

This one seems obvious, but I'm always surprised by how many people are unable to understand people who disagree with them. In order to debate successfully, you must research things that your opponent will say. You need to understand the arguments on the other side, which helps you strengthen your own case. Debate has given me the chance to learn about topics that I never would have imagined. I am a more well-rounded individual and I can better articulate my beliefs as a result.

2. You need to be able to think on your feet

Sure, you can construct a bulletproof case, but things never go as planned. Cross-examination can be full of surprises and every debater knows that you need to be a quick thinker if you want to survive. You must be able to answer the tough questions, both in debate and in everyday life.

3. Listening is as important as speaking

This one seems strange, since you obviously need to give a great speech in order to win a debate. But you cannot focus solely on what you want to say and completely ignore the person speaking. If you do that, you aren't actually responding to the arguments at hand. A debate without clash is hardly a debate at all. This illustrates a good life lesson: You can't expect to be successful if you don't actively listen to others.

4. Be capable of thriving in a competitive environment

I've always loved competition, but I know quite a few people who hate it. Some people will avoid confrontation at all costs. Debate is highly competitive, but it is relatively civil in terms of argumentation. This makes it a great opportunity to become comfortable with confrontation while it is in a structured environment. Debate is also a place where you eventually recognize that you can be successful even if you don't always win.

5. People are interesting, so get to know them

This is not to say that I love every person that I've met through debate. I certainly haven't. But debate is a great opportunity to branch out and meet people with a different worldview and different life experiences. The friends I have made through debate are a reminder that you can repeatedly disagree with someone and still maintain a strong relationship with mutual respect.

And for all of these reasons, this is why I don't regret my decision to join the debate team, no matter how frustrating or time-consuming it has been. The valuable lessons learned outweigh any negatives.

Cover Image Credit: Lacie Fink

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The Trump Presidency Is Over

Say hello to President Mike Pence.

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Remember this date: August 21, 2018.

This was the day that two of President Donald Trump's most-important associates were convicted on eight counts each, and one directly implicated the president himself.

Paul Manafort was Trump's campaign chairman for a few months in 2016, but the charges brought against him don't necessarily implicate Trump. However, they are incredibly important considering was is one of the most influential people in the Trump campaign and picked Mike Pence to be the vice presidential candidate.

Manafort was convicted on five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and one count of failure to file a report of a foreign bank account. And it could have been even worse. The jury was only unanimous on eight counts while 10 counts were declared a mistrial.

Michael Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer, told a judge that Trump explicitly instructed him to break campaign-finance laws by paying two women not to publicly disclose the affairs they had with Trump. Those two women are believed to be Karen McDougal, a Playboy model, and Stormy Daniels, a pornstar. Trump had an affair with both while married to his current wife, Melania.

And then to no surprise, Fox News pundits spun this in the only way they know how. Sara Carter on Hannity said that the FBI and the Department of Justice are colluding as if it's some sort of deep-state conspiracy. Does someone want to tell her that the FBI is literally a part of the DOJ?

The Republican Party has for too long let Trump get away with criminal behavior, and it's long past time to, at the very least, remove Mr. Trump from office.

And then Trump should face the consequences for the crimes he has committed. Yes, Democrats have a role, too. But Republicans have control of both chambers of Congress, so they head every committee. They have the power to subpoena Trump's tax returns, which they have not. They have the power to subpoena key witnesses in their Russia investigations, which they have not.

For the better part of a year I have been asking myself what is the breaking point with Republicans and Trump. It does not seem like there is one, so for the time being we're stuck with a president who paid off two women he had an affair with in an attempt to influence a United States election.

Imagine for a second that any past president had done even a fraction of what Trump has.

Barack Obama got eviscerated for wearing a tan suit. If he had affairs with multiple women, then Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell would be preparing to burn him at the stake. If they won't, then Trump's enthusiastic would be more than happy to do so.

For too long we've been saying that Trump is heading down a road similar to Nixon, but it's evident now that we're way past that point. Donald Trump now has incriminating evidence against him to prove he's a criminal, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller is just getting started.

Will Trump soften the blow and resign in disgrace before impeachment like Nixon did? Knowing his fragile ego, there's honestly no telling what he'll do. But it's high time Trump leaves an office he never should have entered in the first place.

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Sweden And The Far Right

How Jimmie Akesson and his anti-immigrant Sweden Democrat party were able to rise in such a liberal, socialist nation

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On September 9, 2018, Sweden's national government elections will be held. While, traditionally, the left-leaning Social Democrat party has done well in these elections (winning every one since 1917, in fact), this year, a new political force has forced its way into the spotlight. Pre-election polls show that the far-right, nativist party Sweden Democrats may get over 15% of the vote in tomorrow's election, which would make it the second largest political party in Sweden, behind the substantially weakened Social Democrats who are only polling at a little over 25%. Since the country appears to be in genuinely good shape (unemployment is the lowest in 10 years and the economy is growing at a solid 3% annually), why does such a substantial portion of Sweden's electorate feel that they need to abandon Sweden's current center-left government? Among other factors, many Swedes feel that Sweden's current acceptance of refugees from the Middle East and other poverty-stricken global regions is making Swedish society a generally more dangerous place.

In 2015 alone, Sweden accepted over 160,000 asylum seekers from Syria, Somalia, and other troubled, Muslim-majority nations. While this number may not seem large given the hundreds of millions of people who currently live in Europe, it was the second largest refugee intake per-capita in the continent. This staggering influx of foreigners, especially in a country that is over 90% Caucasian, has made many citizens fearful of the prospects of rising crime in immigrant communities and the difficulties of integrating the Muslim refugees into Swedish society. Gun-related murders have risen tenfold since the 1990's, with much of the violence amongst men in mainly immigrant neighbourhoods. Sex crimes against Swedish girls aged 15-17 rose by 46% in 2016, shortly after refugees began arriving in Sweden. Also jihadist attacks, such as the truck-ramming committed by Uzbek immigrant and ISIS supporter Rakhmat Akilov that killed five people in Stockholm last year, have done much to stoke negative sentiment against Muslim foreigners in Sweden. Rolf Hans Berg, an elderly Swedish man who supports the Sweden Democrats, has stated in an interview with CNN that "it's chaos here," specifically when referring to refugees coming to Sweden.

While more moderate Swedish politicians accuse the Sweden Democrats of pushing xenophobic and Islamophobic narratives, it should not be surprising that the aforementioned crime statistics as well as the persistent threat of terrorism are causing many fearful Swedish people to support the political party vowing to put Sweden first and minimize the intake of foreign asylum seekers.

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