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  Done in 60 Seconds
By Chris L. Stollar
 

While the clock's monotonous ticking echoed in my ears, anxious eyes gazed intently at me. I did not dare return their gaze. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Time passed slowly, granting no mercy. I wanted to scream, hide, anything to end this misery. For one blessed moment, I imagined myself as a wee man, barely the size of a thumb, frolicking unseen around the room, laughing at those poor fools who must deliver speeches. Reality bitterly reminded me. I was one of those fools.

During this utterly embarrassing moment of delivering my first debate speech, I cared only for ending it. Instead of passionately defending U.S. military intervention policy, shy tears welled up behind my eyelids, while I occasionally mumbled something about big guns and bad people. Fortunately, my eight minute oration lasted sixty seconds. 

Little did I know how much debate would one day benefit my professional, journalistic career. While journalism did not dominate my mind as a freshman, I continued debating through Home School Legal Defense Association's debate league for four years. I also traveled for three months in a thirty-one foot 
motor home, sharing these skills at conferences from Hawaii (that was a tough one) to Massachusetts.

Unfortunately, my graduation party after Nationals last summer ended these years of formal debating. But, the skills I learned only grew stronger when a new chapter unfolded in my life: journalism. This chapter began with a letter. 

The day it arrived my heart beat wildly. After nervously gazing at the envelope, I finally ripped it apart and poured through the letter's content: Congratulations! You've been selected to be a writer on the 
2000-01 20Below News Team at the Register Guard. Fame, fortune, and deadlines are coming your way! 

After two months of a rigorous application process, I was finally selected to write for 20Below, the esteemed, weekly youth section of the Register Guard. With a circulation of about 75,000 Oregonians, 20Below consists of twenty-five college and high school students who serve as writers, columnists, artists, CD and movie reviewers, and even photographers. We meet monthly at the Register Guard to plan stories and articles.

From the beginning of this internship, I realized how much I owed to those people who had devoted incalculable hours in training me how to deliver effective speeches. But, more importantly, they taught me how to think analytically, a skill which journalism requires. Frank Lloyd Wright once stated, I'm in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with the typewriter. Journalists must know how to reason.

My second assignment for 20Below, which centered on analyzing both sides of the Measure 9 controversy, thoroughly convinced me that my debating was not done in vain. Proposed by the Oregon Citizen's Alliance (OCA) last year, Measure 9 sought to prohibit Oregon public schools from encouraging, promoting, or sanctioning homosexuality and bisexuality. 

Immediately my debating skills grabbed my hand, aiding me in this task. When trying to understand both the OCA's and the No On 9 Campaign's position, I had to slice through their rhetoric and analyze the cold, naked arguments. My memory carried me back to the intensity of outrounds, where I had cut to the heart of my opponents' flowery claims.

Similarly, while carefully crafting questions for interviews, I smiled as my mind drifted to those sunny, Saturday mornings spent writing cross-examination questions for affirmative teams' plans. This 20Below assignment was no different. Measure 9 was just another plan, with an agency, mandates, funding, and enforcement.

Besides teaching me how to critically analyze issues and ask succinct questions, debate also provided me with an immense network of friends. Because I spent countless hours teaching debate and attending tournaments across the country, my contacts grew exponentially. This proved extremely beneficial when I received a phone call in February from Rich Shipe, who I had met at the National Debate Tournament several years ago. He asked me to serve as the Teens Channel Assignment Editor for Crosswalk.com, the world's largest Christian website. Why? Because I knew debaters, good thinkers and writers from Oahu to Boston.

Providing an alternative to other pop-Christian websites, The Teens Channel hosts articles, poetry, CD reviews, and many other works written by teenagers. Our goal is to provide a unique, electronic forum, grounded in a biblical worldview and committed to the pursuit of truth and reason. This channel allows youth to thoughtfully interact with each other's ideas, beliefs, and concerns. 

My first task involved recruiting teenagers capable of thinking and writing well. Not surprisingly, I sent my first recruiting letter to debaters. Many replied. I thanked God for this integrated network of friends, willing to help in an instant. 

When looking back on that first debate round, I stand relieved that it was not my last. Never would I have dreamt that four more years of learning, excitement, and embarrassment would one day aid my journalistic endeavors. While I had wanted to quit after sixty seconds, God had better plans.

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