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Debate Advice

Marc Sanchez

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Nicole Wagner and Kyra Stephenson
(Marc Sanchez)
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Did you watch the debate last week? Millions of you did. If not, you have only one more chance. Wednesday night in New York is the third and final contest between John McCain and Barack Obama. That means this weekend, the Obama and McCain camps are trying to get their candidates ready to make one last push.

Even though they didn't ask for it, we decided to get some advice for the candidates, so we brought in two of the top high school debaters in the area. Kyra Stephenson and Nicole Wagner debate for Eagan High School, in Eagan, Minn.

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John Moe: Why do you guys talk so fast?

Kyra Stephenson: Well, really the point is to get as many arguments in as possible. And since we only do have eight minutes, we want to speak quickly so we can put out as many different arguments.

Moe: Normally, you have eight minutes. We know that a high school debate and a presidential debate are two different things. (Many people say that a presidential debate isn't even really a debate.) Do you think they should be training for speed a little bit more and trying to get more of these points in, like you guys do?

Stephenson: Well, I really don't think that speed is appropriate for the arena that they're speaking in. Because, you know, they want to be clearly conveying their point, and lots of times the faster you speak, the more muddled what you're saying can be. But I do think that they need to be more efficient in what they're saying instead of being so roundabout in their answers.

Moe: Did you watch the debates?

Stephenson: A little bit, yeah.

Moe: What were you thinking when you were watching them?

Stephenson: I was wishing, first of all, that they would answer the question. But I also think it would be really nice if they got to do cross-examination like we do in our debate. Because I think that it would really be helpful to the voters to really have the candidates examining each other's position so we can really clarify what they're talking about.

Moe: There was much made in the first presidential debate over John McCain not looking directly at Barack Obama. Was that good technique or bad technique?

Nicole Wagner: You can glance over at them occasionally, but really you're trying to convince the American people on your issues and how, what you think of them. So you should look at the audience because that's who you're persuading.

Moe: How do you psych out your opponents?

Wagner: Well, we do have a lot of evidence that we bring in to rounds, so you can kind of intimidate your opponents if you bring in four huge tubs of evidence. And the other person looks a lot less prepared if they only have one.

Stephenson: But I mean, I really think the best psych-out is just purely knowing what you're talking about and being confident in that. I mean, if someone stands up, and they have clear evidence based on what they're saying and they can give empirical examples, they're going to sound like they're saying the right thing compared to someone else who doesn't really know what they're talking about.

Moe: Kyra Stephenson and Nicole Wagner from the Eagan High School debate team, thank you. And the presidential candidates thank you as well.

Stephenson and Wagner: Thank you.

  • Music Bridge:
    Regalos De Pandora
    Artist: Mike Shannon
    CD: Memory Tree (Plus 8)

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