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Newsweek: Texas High Schooler Wins First Speaker Award At Global Debate Contest

May 12, 2023 Newsweek reports that Sanika Agarwalla, a junior from The Hockaday School in Dallas, Texas, received the inaugural John E. Sexton Award at the 22nd annual International Public Policy Forum (IPPF) Finals in New York City. The award honors an outstanding speaker in the final round as determined by the judges.

Hockaday Debate Coach Chuck Walts told the publication that Agarwalla drew the judges into her speech with her presence and charisma.

"You can see how she draws everybody into the speech, the way in which she can use a turn of a phrase in order to make a point and the rhetorical prowess she has during the speech," he said. "I think those are often components of debate, when we focus on the argumentation level, that can be forgotten."

Agarwalla spoke to Newsweek about the IPPF competition and her love of debate and experience interacting with the judges during the final debate.

"I think this award exemplifies that debate is also about a key component of communication," said Agarwalla. "That is relationship building and the human connection that you make. And I really felt that with Dr. Sexton as well. I remember looking at the judges panel, and he would be smiling during my speech. When I called him out, and he would be laughing and nodding and writing in his notes, I think that was the most fun part."

She continued, "All of [that] connection building and the very human parts of it were a big part of the John E. Sexton Award because it shows that being a good speaker is not always just about being smarter than the person next to you. It's about being more human than the person next to you."

Read the article.

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