Federal Way High knows what it talks about


Staff writer

“You should be calm. Make eye-contact with the judges. See if their heads are nodding: it means they agree with you. Maybe get a laugh with a funny quote ... You can make people think the way you do.” Kim Palumbarit.

Federal Way High School’s speech and debate team, at least, has been able to make people agree with them during the last 20 years.

Others have been less convincing than the local team that has won 12 state speech and debate championships in the last two decades and the last four in a row. All of the championships have come under the leadership of teacher Lois Gorne (pronounced ‘Gor-nay’ but affectionately reduced to ‘Gorn’ by her students).

“It’s all because of Gorne and” assistant coach Jason Whoeler, Palumbarit says. “They expect a lot. We have to meet and exceed those expectations.”

The 2003 state competition will be held this Saturday at the University of Puget Sound.

“We’re the team to beat,” says Palumbarit.

She will compete in the extemporaneous competition, an individual event in which students are given a topic, 30 minutes to prepare a speech and seven minutes to execute it.

An example of a topic Palumbarit has spoken on is whether education is worsening because of President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” program.

Such a competition requires a broad awareness of current events, since there is no advance notice of what topic speakers will be required to address.Media like the New York Times, the Seattle Times, CNN, the Economist, Newsweek and BusinessWeek help Palumbarit keep up to date. The issues covered in her events, such as “globalization versus national sovereignty,” aren’t the standard fare for high school students, she says. Palumbarit, who has a 3.92 grade point average and hopes to attend John Hopkins University, says that the brainy kids do well in forensics, but they aren’t the only ones who succeed. Other events, like humorous and dramatic interpretative events, yield to those who have a flare for the dramatic, says Gorne.

“You have to be like Jay Leno,” says Palumbarit, referring to the television show host and comedian who often uses political humor. “You have to walk the line without offending anyone. You never know the judge’s politics.”

Palumbarit insists that this particular extracurricular activity is a life skill.

“If I’m at a war protest, I can substantiate why,” Palumbarit says. “A lot of people who bash President Bush don’t know why they’ve jumped on that particular bandwagon.”

She also says that while many of her peers struggled to express themselves clearly, especially when speaking with adults, she has absolutely no trouble.

“College interviews don’t faze me,” Palumbarit says. “Speech and communication skills have become second nature to me.”

Gorne says that one of people’s greatest fears is public speaking, but nevertheless they must do it at some point in their lives.

The worst thing that can happen in a speech and debate competition is forgetting your point or the question that was asked you, Palumbarit says. In a recent competition, one Federal Way student, Stefan Ducich, accidentally gave his dramatic interpretation during what was supposed to be a humorous interpretation event. Apparently none of the judges thought it was funny: he finished dead last in that event. But he then gave his dramatic interpretation during the correct time and took first place.

Nine Federal Way High students have qualified for the national speech and debate competition that will be held in Atlanta, Ga. June 14-20. But on the front burner is the state competition this weekend.

“Send any good thoughts south toward University of Puget Sound,” says Gorne.

Staff writer Kenny Ching: 925-5565

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