My Roeper Story is about the transformative power that forensics had on my ability and desire to speak publicly.
As I sat backstage waiting to give my TEDxVanderbilt talk, I could feel a familiar nervousness and I instantly recalled my experiences in Roeper forensics. Forensics is competitive public speaking. Students participate in tournaments performing selections from other authors or writing their own informative or persuasive work. Each participant performs with no props except a chair so he or she has to create scenes or arguments with just his or her body and voice.
I joined Roeper forensics in 6th grade and continued through my final days as a Roeper student. I performed every kind of piece from the sublime to the intensely serious. I threw myself into hysteria over a dysfunctional baby doll, explained the intricate pyrotechnics in fireworks, and struggled with the consequences of killing another human being. Through each performance and each year, I could feel my speaking and my presence developing. The members of the Roeper forensics team performed not out of a desire to win competitions but to strengthen our interpretation, our presentation, and our speaking. The coaches, Dan Jacobs and Andrew Brock to name a couple, slaved away hours working with us, empowering us to put heart and soul into every word. Through their work and through repeated performance, my voice truly matured and I formed an ability that has lasted to this day, through my years at Vanderbilt University.
Years after graduating Roeper, I received an email for an application to deliver a TED talk at Vanderbilt. I quickly developed a speech about my newest hobby, juggling, and its effects on the human brain. When the speaker’s committee selected me, I could not help but feel the same giddiness I felt when I had prepared my piece for a forensics tournament. When the moment for my speech arrived, my nervousness transformed into a rush of adrenaline. Before each performance at every forensics tournament, I experienced the same adrenaline stoking an intense desire to perform, be heard, and be remembered. My Roeper experience taught me not only to speak in public but also to speak with the belief that I deserved to be listened to. I took a deep breath, looked out at the audience, and smiled, ready to tell my story.