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January 25, 2011 > Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. honored at Logan High School

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. honored at Logan High School

By Suzanne Ortt
Photos By Ann Allison-Marsh

Envision a high school campus, usually empty on weekends; bustling with students dressed up - males in suits with ties and females in dark dresses with pumps. That scene materialized the weekend of January 14 - 16 at James Logan High School in Union City. The catalyst was the 18th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Invitational Tournament.

Originator Tommie Lindsey, who directs the Logan forensics department, initiated the tournament, realizing through his childhood and career path, the value of public speaking. Named to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a renowned orator with superior skills, it is always held the weekend nearest Dr. King's birthday.

The three-day weekend competition draws forensics students primarily from California but also from Colorado, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Nevada; it is estimated that 1,100 - 1,500 contestants were present.

Debate types are Lincoln-Douglas, Policy, Public Forum, Parliamentary, and, back by popular demand, Congressional Debate. Debate topics were weighty, ranging from U.S. military involvement, U.S. nuclear energy policy, and Japan's killing of dolphins.

Individual speech events varied from original prose and poetry to humorous interpretation. Among the offerings were an expository speech session and the Duo Interpretation finals. Expository is a speech to inform of an object, idea, concept, or process. Six students presented their speeches to Judge Justin Kurup, a Logan alumnus who graduated in 2007. He currently attends UC Davis and likes to help in the tournament. Topics included: infomercials, Monday boredom, and stereotypes. In this type of forensic challenge, visual aids are allowed. Cleverness characterized each student's efforts, as well as evidence of much time spent in preparation.

Duo Interpretation finals were held Sunday, shortly before the Awards Ceremony. Trophies lined a table on stage behind the performers. In this category, two students work together to present a selected single piece of literature. During the 10 minutes allowed, these rules apply: the two must not touch each other and must maintain off-stage focus (no eye contact with each other). Costumes and props are not to be used. Also the piece must be memorized. This event was absolutely incredible. Contestants moved around each other dramatically in perfect choreography. Synchronization of speaking and movements was astounding; obviously the result of much practice. Five experienced judges had the daunting task of choosing a winner.

Students Amanda Kindle and Suzette Turner were part of a 21- student contingent from Denver, Colorado. Both, from Denver East High School, qualified for the Duo finals. They were impressed with the warm temperatures here; in Colorado, students are used to weather with thermometer readings of twenty below zero.

Last summer Mr. Lindsey traveled to Colorado to lead training at Denver East. His expertise was obvious. At a "shoutout" for Mr. Lindsey, one of the students yelled out, "You are my hero."

Matt Murphy, the coach from Denver East, said this is his third year coming to the Martin Luther King Jr. tournament; one he will not ever miss. He commented, "Here you can see what excellence looks like. I want my school's program to be modeled after James Logan."

The strength of this venture is attributable to volunteers. Parents are the core, known as "Friends of Forensics." The group of approximately 50 from Logan helped with judging, training, cooking and serving lunch, and running the snack bar. Approximately 300 volunteers from around the Bay Area also helped.

Prior to the Awards Ceremony, Mr. Lindsey recognized four energetic and dedicated parent volunteers. Ann Allison-Marsh conducted the judges training and other duties; she is an expert multi-tasker. Florence Graham had the daunting task of recruiting and organizing the judges. Lauretta McCarthy and Rose Bremond shared organizational duties, operation of the snack bar and lunch for the judges. Coordination was the key in all areas. Mr. Lindsey, in addition to his appreciative words, gave lovely flower bouquets to each.

In the years since its origin, the tournament has grown in numbers and prestige; this year 63 schools participated. It is now rated as one of the best in the country. The Logan competition is held the auspices of the Joy of Tournaments ( This organization, based in Texas, served 900 schools this year. Brent Hinkle, a representative of Joy of Tournaments, helped coordinate the activities.

Alumni and current students are considered the Forensic Family. Their volunteer efforts are a testament to their respect for Mr. Lindsey. His talented teaching and leadership have touched many, many lives and have a lasting impact.

Friends of Forensics have two fundraising activities at this time; links for fundraising and their Facebook page are:!/group.php?gid=167009466643020 (This is the eScrip program where regular shopping dollars get credited to the team.)

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