Xavier senior Jordan Baker triumphs in speech and debate invitational


Berkeley Student News

The University of California, Berkeley hosted its historical speech and debate competition virtually this year due to Covid-19.

This February, Jordan Baker ‘21 delivered a convincing and impassioned discourse that won her first place in the 2021 California Speech and Debate Invitational hosted by the University of California, Berkeley. 

This competition is one steeped in tradition, having been held for the past forty-eight years. Like most speech and debate competitions, it is characterized by the breadth of events it contains. 

“There’s a bunch of events in speech and in debate,” Helena Richardson ‘22, a former member of the Brophy-Xavier speech and debate team, explained. “It’s kind of analogous to track and field.” 

However, like most activities, the California Speech and Debate Invitational was modified this year. Due to the spread of the coronavirus, the tournament was conducted in a virtual format. This not only meant that the high school contestants could not have the usual experience of traveling to Berkeley but that they would not be able to reach their audiences in an intimate, in-person setting.

This unprecedented situation would faze even some of the most seasoned speech and debate participants, let alone a novice. But Baker was a new recruit to the decorated Brophy-Xavier Speech and Debate Team (coached by Brophy faculty member Jim Welty) as of this academic year. 

“My friend thought I would be good at speech and debate,” Baker says about her decision to join the team. She added that she believes the activity to be “a good influence, pushing people to seek out injustices and advocate against them.” 

Out of the many options of events at the California Invitational, Baker competed in the Programmed Oral Interpretation event. This particular event requires its participants to advance an argument or theme through the use of narrative, characterization and other creative devices. One major aspect of it is that participants select their own topics.

Baker indeed utilized speech and debate to advocate against injustice. She centered her oratorical address on the environmental issue of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and how they should be regulated or outlawed. 

According to Richardson, for each speech and debate event, “there are preliminary rounds and then the highest ranking people ‘break’ to the out rounds such as octos, quarters, semis, and finals,” with the number of rounds dependent on the size of the particular tournament. 

Since the California Invitational is a relatively large competition, there were six rounds including the final round and semi finals of the Programmed Oral Interpretation event. Baker made it through all six rounds. Out of thirty-five initial hopefuls, she was declared the champion.

Despite her less than optimal circumstances, Baker prevailed. Out of thirty-five total speakers, she placed first in her category of Programmed Oral Interpretation.

Baker’s success has propelled her to consider continuing on in Speech and Debate even after she graduates from Xavier. “My college plans are still undecided but if I happen to go to a college that has a speech and debate team, I would gladly join,” she stated.