Academic Preparation

(Appropriate for students new to summer program events)

Students should practice public speaking, about 2-3 minutes for a practice performance, initially on issues that are personally important and well known. Select the topic and deliver an extemporaneous speech (limited preparation on a research-based topic, from 1 hour to up to a day for research before speech delivery) or an impromptu delivery (from 60-90 seconds of preparation time to as much as 30 minutes of preparation time before speech delivery). Challenge yourself with different topics when you feel that you might be able to deliver a more convincing, persuasive speech than the first one.

Try to use the A-R-E method for argument development. Assertion-Reasoning-Evidence. An assertion is a brief and clearly expressed claim or opinion. The reasoning is an explanation or justification of the opinion. Reasoning explains why an opinion makes sense. Evidence is the experience, observation, or researched fact that supports one’s reasoning. Evidence proves that an opinion is more right than wrong. It is based on facts, rather than speculation or a guesstimate.

During summer programming, all debate and leadership communication students will learn the comprehensive argument method created by John Meany decades ago and subsequently refined as A-R-E-S-R, Assertion-Reasoning-Evidence-Significance-Result.

Video your practice speeches. Practice the same speech several times. After the fourth or fifth presentation, examine the first and most recent video to identify strengths and weaknesses. Communication strengths include eye contact, confidence, volume, alteration in pace (avoid a monotone), emphasis of key words, and appropriate, integrated gestures. Core weaknesses include too much reading of a text, limited or exaggerated movement (no hand/arm movement or pacing, rocking back-and-forth or side-to-side), reduced volume at the end of sentences or paragraphs, and too similar tone and pace for the entire delivery.

As practice improves, select more challenging topics, practice more impromptu than extemporaneous speeches, and reduce the amount of preparation time before delivery. In general, a student should practice public speaking about 30-90 minutes each week to ensure effective, professional, competitive performance.

It is possible to use the topics listed here or substitute your own topics.

Middle School Speech Topics

§  The least favorite things about school

§  My favorite thing to do on vacation

§  The voting age should be lowered to the age of 16

§  How should the US restore the economy in a time of pandemic?

§  Soccer is the best sport

§  Two things I would like to learn

§  All middle schools should have school uniforms

High School Speech Topics

§  The least favorite things about school

§  My favorite thing to do on vacation

§   How should the US restore the economy in a time of pandemic?

§  The US should elect the president by popular vote

§  Schools should have mandatory drug testing for participation in extracurricular activities

§  What is the most important issue facing the United States?

§  Standardized testing does more good than harm


If one has time, the best way to prepare is to research and discuss debates on the listed topics. During the program, students will research and prepare argument sets with staff and other students  for debates. Students may prepare any research files, casebooks, dictionaries, and other reference materials for use for debates or professional events.

For those new to debate, students will learn how to analyze a topic, conduct and organize research, and prepare files and casebooks. Novice debaters might have some information on topics but are not expected to have fully prepared to debate any of the topics.

Topics – Middle School Sessions – Basic/Intermediate

§  All middle school students should wear uniforms.

§  The US should abolish the Electoral College.

Topics – Middle School Session – Advanced

§  The US should adopt a guaranteed annual income.

§  The US should have compulsory voting in general elections.


The summer program uses pre-announced and impromptu debate topics.

To prepare for the institute, each student might research and organize materials for debates on the listed topics. Students will also conduct research, organize arguments, build cases and counterplans, and prepare with staff and other students for debates. Students may bring any research files, casebooks, dictionaries, and other reference materials for use for debates. For those new to debate, students will learn how to conduct and organize research and prepare files and casebooks during institute sessions. Novice debaters should have some information on topics but do not need the same preparation as experienced debaters. Students should research current events from major newspapers and other periodicals for impromptu debates.

Pre-announced Debate Topics – HSPDP Debate Sessions (Basic and Advanced)

§  The US should abolish the Electoral College.

§  The US should pay reparations for slavery.

There will be additional impromptu topics, selected from enduring ethical controversies and major current events.


The CDLI provides training for effective communication in professional settings – leadership positions for student government, clubs, and organizations, participation in social and political activism, and success in interviews, internships, roundtable discussions, town hall meetings, academic conferences, and public debates.

The CDLI will offer the experience that students need to develop the required communication skills for educational and career success – the ability to identify problems, propose solutions, express vision, and motivate others. Through lectures, practice exercises, readings, discussions, case studies, negotiation games, decision groups, and a conference, students will learn the 3 I’sof highly effective leadership communication – Influencing, Implementing, and Innovating.

Students will research current events and organize for discussions and presentations on select topics.

Research & Resume

High school students should review daily newspapers and online news. In addition, they should read subject field documents, such as academic periodicals and online political reviews – a daily major newspaper (e.g., New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal); weekly national or international news periodicals (e.g., Time, The Washington Post Weekly, Economist, Newsweek); online current events reports (e.g., Google News), and additional specialized periodicals (e.g., Foreign Policy, Columbia Journalism Review, etc.)

Students should prepare a digital copy of their resume to submit during the program.

Speech and Discussion Topics

§  The US should substantially reform criminal sentencing.

§  The US should re-organize government operations to address pandemics. 

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