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The Teen's Speech: LaRue student excels in oration

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By Robert Villanueva

LaRue County High School student Brian Anderson has earned recognition on local, state and national levels, and from the looks of things he hasn’t had his last word yet.

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Anderson, a junior, is part of the LaRue County High School Speech Team, and has impressed many with his accomplishments. The student ranks 46th in the nation, based on points earned in competitions under the National Forensic League, and second in the state. He is ranked third in the nation for his grade level.

“He’s definitely the one everyone in the state is chasing,” speech coach Katy Blair Cecil said.

Bill Thompson, the assistant speech coach who works closely with Anderson, said it is “hard to wrap your head around” the teen’s accomplishments. To put it in perspective, the best speech team member Thompson has had earned about 2,000 points by the time he graduated.

Anderson is already almost at that point and might hit 3,000 by the time his senior year is over, Thompson said.

“I do like those points,” Anderson said.

Unlike other speech team students, he did not begin taking speech before high school. He wrestled instead.

Anderson did not have a hard time making the transition because he loves learning and feels he can garner important lessons from each activity.

“In speaking, if I stood up and thought about every word I was going to say, I’d stumble,” Anderson said.

Honing his proficiency in speech has academic benefits, too.

“The ability to speak translates into the ability to write,” Anderson said, noting the skill helps him in his other classes.

Anderson specializes in extemporaneous speaking, for which he has won numerous first place and other honors on the regional, state and national levels. He also has won awards in the categories of impromptu, declamation, prose and poetry.

Earlier this year Anderson competed in the Extemporaneous and Impromptu Speaking Tournament of Champions at Northwestern University of Chicago, becoming the first LCHS student to qualify. He placed sixth in the national competition. In May he placed in the top 12 as a semi-finalist in the National Catholic Forensic League 62nd Grand National Tournament.

A couple weekends ago, Anderson competed at the Wake Forest Early Bird Speech Tournament, placing third in impromptu and advancing to the semi-finals in extemporaneous.

Because Anderson also is a top student, Cecil said, universities have already started trying to recruit him.

“It is like having a star athlete,” Cecil said.

To compete in extemporaneous speaking, Anderson and his team mates maintain an extensive catalog — in fact, more than 2 gigabytes’ worth — of material addressing subjects ranging from current events to world politics. He doesn’t know what subject he will speak about during a competition until about 30 minutes beforehand.

“Extemp is my favorite, but poetry is enjoyable, and I do it to have a good time,” he said.

For poetry, Anderson finds slam poetry he can relate to and recites it with the goal of making the judges feel empathetic. Last year during a competition he recited a poem about being a nerd.

Speech is not Anderson’s only interest, though.

Anderson has played soccer and joined teen court. He is also working on becoming a teen blogger for The Huffington Post.

Thompson said it is fitting Anderson competes in National Forensic League events. The word “forensic,” Thompson said, relates to the search for the truth, and the coach said he’s never met anyone who has searched for the truth like Anderson.

“I’ve done this for 20 years, and I’ve never in my life coached a kid like Brian,” Thompson said.

Though Anderson enjoys his speech competitions and presenting informative material, the most valuable lesson he’s learned seems to keep him grounded.

“It’s a subjective event, and no matter how good you are, you’re going to lose,” he said.

Robert Villanueva can be reached at 270-505-1743 or rvillanueva@thenewsenterprise.com.

GUIDELINES FOR SOME SPEECH CATEGORIES

Extemporaneous Speaking: A contestant draws three questions and selects one to answer, using files of published materials previously compiled by the student. After 30 minutes of preparation, the contestant must speak on the topic for up to seven minutes.

Impromptu Speaking: An original interpretation of a designated topic by the speaker as supported by varied material, giving the contestant opportunity to be creative and imaginative and displaying the student’s ability to organize thoughts in a logical manner.

Poetry Reading: Only published or printed works of poetry may be used. No plays or other dramatic materials are permitted.

Prose Reading: Fiction or non-fiction works, such as short stories, novels, articles, essays, journals and biographies may be used.

Source: National Forensic League

 

A FEW WORDS ABOUT BRIAN ANDERSON:

City of birth: Shreveport, La.

City of residence: Hodgenville

Favorite author/books: “A Song of Ice and Fire” series by George R. R. Martin, also known as the “Game of Thrones” series

Favorite music: Jazz and rap

Favorite movie: “Forrest Gump”

Favorite TV show: “The Colbert Report,” “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” “Modern Marvels” and, he said, “You can never go wrong with Saturday morning cartoons.”

Hobbies: Vegetable gardening in the summer and raising bees

Favorite analyst: Paul Krugman

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