The National Speech and Debate Association recently selected a Lambert High School student to take part in its 2021-22 USA Debate team made up of 12 of the best debaters in the nation.
Vinayak Menon, a junior, officially joined the team this past month, meaning he will soon be competing in international competitions while representing the U.S. along with the other high school students.
“It’s really exciting because the USA Debate team, it’s a really prestigious team, and they get to do a lot of really cool things …. So I was incredibly excited to hear that I was selected,” Menon said.
He has already had the chance to meet with other team members online and with USA Debate team alumni who have shared their own experience in representing the U.S. and debating on an international scale.
These connections made in meetings and competitions with students from around the world, coaches and alumni are just one of the many reasons Menon said he is looking forward to competing on the team.
In a normal year, those selected also have an opportunity to travel around the world to competitions in Germany, Thailand, Croatia and others. Until the pandemic subsides, however, Menon and the team will be competing virtually.
“[I’m really looking forward to] those international competitions because I usually do debate on the national circuit, so I’m competing against Americans from places like New York,” Menon said. “But I’m really excited and looking forward to competing with people who are not from the United States and hearing their perspectives and their opinions. That’s just something you don’t get to engage with that much, and that will be a really unique opportunity.”
Menon joined his first speech and debate team in middle school, and he has been actively involved in teams and competitions for the past four years.
He said he was initially drawn to debate because, since a young age, he’s been interested in politics and world affairs. Even when he was a kid, Menon said he kept up with the news, and in elementary school, he began public speaking through oratorical contests.
It was no surprise that when Menon attended his first speech and debate club meeting, he “felt an instant connection.”
“I remember sitting in my chair and I just felt excited,” Menon said.
He quickly learned more about researching topics and developing rhetorical arguments before he started competing with other students in the state and then, eventually, across the nation.
Menon has now won several national debate tournaments and the 2021 state competition for the American Legion Constitutional Oratorical Contest. State and local leaders recognized the Lambert student for his success in these contests this past summer.
Going forward on the USA Debate team, Menon said he is most excited to continue with debate and take part in the international competitions where he will get to hear the perspectives of those even outside of the U.S.
“In debate, you really get to be in another person’s shoes and see both sides of the story …. It really helped me open my perspectives about the world because, a lot of times, we just see people get caught up in their bubble and form their own opinions but debate really helps you engage in a wide variety of different opinions,” Menon said.
Even after competing on the USA team, Menon said he wants to continue with speech and debate through high school.
Outside of speech and debate, Menon also serves as the youth sector leader for the Forsyth County Drug Awareness Council and region officer for Georgia’s Future Business Leaders of America.
As the only student in Georgia selected for the national debate team, Menon said he wants to encourage others to take part in debate and compete on a national level.
“I really want to see more participation in debate,” Menon said. “I hope me being selected can inspire some debaters across Georgia to get involved …. so we see more representation from our state and maybe even our county on this USA debate team moving forward into the future.”