Canon Leads Team To National Victory

Claudia Anaya

Robert Cannon, president of the speech and debate team, made history by placing first in informative speaking during the 2009 National Forensics Association (NFA) competitions, earning the first national title in that event for a community college in the history of the tournament.

“My informative speech is about the magnetic field of Earth,” said Cannon. ?
“The basic concept is that the magnetic north pole and magnetic south-pole switch places roughly every 200,000 years, such that our compasses will eventually point south. My speech deals with not only explaining why scientists think this happens, but also what to expect when the magnetic field does flip.”

Jean Perry, director of forensics, is thrilled about the team’s victory that beat “powerful four-year colleges and universities.” It is, she said, “an incredibly impressive accomplishment.”

Cannon describes the number of rehearsal hours he spends on preparation as “immeasurable.” Cannon said that he has performed at least 14 10-minute speeches this year.

“All of them memorized, rehearsed, blocked, and designed to win,” said Cannon. “So, that’s over two hours of just running through them. All in all, I’ve spent literally hundreds of hours, if not thousands… but it was all worth it. I had a dream to become a national champion in some? event, and in my final year, I finally did it.”

Cannon also took third place in dramatic interpretation with a piece called “Man on Wire,” about a French high-wire walker who walked on a wire suspended between the World Trade Center Towers in the 1970s. In overall speaker award, Cannon placed 10th out of the hundreds of speakers who competed.

“I can’t tell you how happy I feel about winning. I’ve spent many a long night working until the wee hours, memorizing, tearing the work I’d done down and rebuilding, constantly tweaking and then re-tweaking. I’ve worked harder for this than anything else in my life but I made it happen, and that’s just such a relief: to have actualized my dream.”

Tiffany Brain, speech and debate team member, was proud of the team and found the victorious moment validating.

“When Robert won, I cried. I was overcome with pride for him, considering I know first hand how hard that man worked,” said Brain.

Cannon is one of the longtime members of the speech and debate team who continues to be in the team despite offers to four-year universities.
Perry, who is one among others who coached Cannon is “thrilled” with his success and believes Cannon “has crafted his skill over many years.”

“GCC’s team is very open. We allow our students to give speeches about whatever topics they would like,” said Cannon.

Other schools, Cannon adds, are more rule-bound and sometimes tell students what events they will compete in.

“Every competition we attend, there’s always someone saying something about how horrible their team is, and I ask myself, ‘Why would I want to go there?’ I was one of the very first members of the GCC speech team, and I didn’t begin to do this to go somewhere else; I do this to find something in myself, and GCC has helped me find it. I know no other school could provide what GCC has done for me.”

The team “won first place overall in the medium school division (15 to 25 entries), the first community college ever to do so,” said Perry of the tournament held at Missouri State College in Springfield, which took place April 16 to 21.

The team placed 11th overall, in which seven members made up the team that competed compared to some colleges that had 60 competitors in their team.

“Seventy-eight colleges and universities nationwide competed in this tournament,” said Perry.

The GCC team has won awards at every competition they’ve attended this year.

Perry mentioned that quality would win over quantity. “It doesn’t matter whether one is from a two-year or a four-year school, if your students are the best (which ours are), they should compete to their level and not hesitate to strive for dreams.”

Competitions are held in persuasion, impromptu, extemporaneous, rhetorical criticism, informative, after
dinner speaking, prose, poetry, dramatic duo, dramatic interpretation and NFA-Lincoln- Douglas Debate.

The spring will be Cannon’s last semester at GCC and he will be leaving his position as president of the Speech and Debate Team.

A showcase featuring many of Cannon’s speeches will run May 15 through 16, and 22 through 23 at 8 p.m. in Kreider Hall. For more information on Cannon’s showcase call (323) 309-4698.

On May 15, the speech and debate team will also be? hosting an intramural competition on the GCC campus as a
recruitment tool.