The Pi Kappa Delta National Honor Society for competitive forensics hosts one of the largest speech and debate competitions in the country. It draws hundreds of competitors from colleges and universities across the United States, including CC’s own speech and debate team.
At this year’s competition, the society inducted ten students as All-Americans including Jacob Kirksey ’15, the captain of the speech and debate team at CC. Selection as an All-American is the highest honor awarded at the national tournament, recognizing outstanding seniors with successful careers in forensics, and strong academic and service backgrounds.
“I have never witnessed a dual discipline and motivation for the arts and communication like I’ve seen in this young man over his four years at CC. Jacob’s ruthless determination to present only the best product is evidenced by scrapping a speech the night before competition and re-writing an entire persuasive just because the former ‘wasn’t good enough,’” said Sarah Hinkle, CC speech and debate coach.
He participated at the national level in speech and debate in each of his four years at CC, competing in a variety of events from team debates, limited preparation speaking on current event topics, prepared platform speeches, and acting. Kirksey says his strongest event is impromptu speaking, in which participants have two minutes to prepare a five-minute speech that interprets a given quotation, asserts a thesis, and gives examples on how to apply the quotation to daily life. He focused also on the after-dinner speaking event, preparing a ten-minute speech that incorporates humor into a serious topic and is persuasive in nature. He chose color-blindness and the Black Lives Matter movement for his topic this year.
“Winning and traveling across the country is wonderful, but the best part of competing is discovering your own personal growth,” Kirksey said of his experience on the team. “Every tournament you are pushed to do even better than you did before, and this creates a very important routine for always bettering yourself.”
Earlier this year, Kirksey and his partner reached the quarterfinals of the Pan American Universities Debate Championship tournament. They competed against hundreds of schools competing from across the Western Hemisphere, the equivalent of reaching a medaling heat of the Pan American Games.
“What has impressed me about Jacob is not his competitive success, as CC has a long history of successful speech and debate students, but his willingness to extend his expertise to the community and enrich the lives of young people in Colorado Springs,” said Julian Plaza, one of CC’s speech and debate coaches.
Kirksey also used the skillset he developed through forensics competitions to inspire and start his own company. Kids Are Dramatic is a social justice theatre company that works with Title I public schools, which include higher numbers of at-risk students, and with nonprofits and after-school programs, to create process-oriented drama classes for students to express themselves. He also serves as advocacy director at the local nonprofit group Imagination Celebration where he networks with professionals in the Pikes Peak Region to develop and evaluate educational programs.
Kirksey, a double major in economics and education, began his debate career as a high schooler in Lubbock, Texas, where he initially found his passion for the event. “Speech and debate created a space for me to succeed in high school and see my potential. It forced me to be confident and enhances nearly ever aspect of my academic and professional life.”
After graduation in May, Kirksey will begin the education policy doctorate program at the University of California-Santa Barbara. “If I didn’t have the skillset I developed and enhanced through speech and debate, I wouldn’t be as established and confident in my work. Hopefully I’ll be a professor at age 26.”