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January 29, 2013 > History in the making

History in the making

By Suzanne Ortt
Photos By Ann Allison-Marsh

James Logan High School (JLHS) was abuzz the weekend of January 18 - 20, with over 2,000 students from California and as far away as Mississippi and Wyoming. All were there for a busy three days of competition. The teens, following historic debate and speech traditions in our country, spent three days at Logan High participating in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Invitational Forensics Tournament.

Debate and historic speech is a tradition in our country. The Lincoln-Douglas Debates, a series of seven, are perhaps the most famous. Abraham Lincoln, an Illinois senatorial challenger debated the incumbent Stephen Douglas in 1858.

One hundred and five years later, Martin Luther King, Jr. gained a reputation as an exceptional speaker. His "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963 often repeated, especially on the anniversary of his birthday.

Currently, a popular forensic speech tournament has been hosted at James Logan High School in Union City, since its start in 1987. According to Tommie Lindsey, founder of the program at Logan, the tournament allows participants to "Live out the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. through speech and debate."

Lindsey emphasizes that debate competition provides students with an opportunity to have a voice and express themselves. He believes in the power of forensics (debate). Graduates with forensics experience generally go on to college and become professionals and leaders.

Alums return annually to help with the tournament. They join parent and teacher volunteers who judge the presentations, help organize the tournament, recruit and train judges, and run the snack bar. Volunteer judges are crucial and 250 are needed to assist each day.

Lindsay says the community also benefits economically. Motels, hotels, and restaurants increase their revenues over this weekend.

Principal Amy McNamara of James Logan High explains that the expense of the Forensics Program, approximately $80,000 per year, is basically self-sustaining as a result of the tournament.

A notable aspect to the event is the formal dress code required by Lindsey. Students must dress up. Young women are expected to appear in a black business suit, (jacket and skirt) with solid colored and collared shirt. They are expected to be in solid black dress shoes as well. The young men dress in black suits, ties, and dress shoes. McNamara says that when she tells fellow principals that students on her campus get dressed up one weekend a year, they find it hard to believe.

At this year's tournament, a phenomenal final event was the notable highlight; the Duo (two participants) finals. Students must interpret a published piece within these rules: performers cannot touch one another nor have eye contact and the time limit is ten minutes or less. All of the Duo presentations revealed an incredible level of talent and hard work. Judges had a difficult task but persevered and declared Mariah Boyd and Ryan Le of James Logan High School as winners.

As the tournament drew to a close, the stage in the Performing Arts Center glittered with award trophies. The auditorium was filled with over 550 exuberant students, parents, teachers, and community members for the Awards Ceremony. The 17th annual event ended with the expectation that next year's forensics tournament will continue to make history.

For more information about the James Logan High School Forensics Program, please visit

Photo Caption: Duo winners: Ryan Le and Mariah Boyd

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