LaToya Williams-Green, senior communications major, was shocked when Emporia State debate coach Sam Maurer announced her as the recipient of the Brian Johnston Outstanding Debater of the Year Award at the Cross Examination Debate Association’s national tournament.
“(It was) very shocking and surprising,” Williams-Green said. “You can think of a list of people before your own name that should probably get it, even your own partner. You fight hard next to someone who you know fights just as hard.”
The award is named after CEDA’s 1994 National Champion, according to Cedadebate.org. The recipient is someone who can not only give the right argument, but who is also a friendly and familiar face, Williams-Green said.
“(Johnston) was the go-to guy when it came to debate, not only for being likeable for what he said and what he thought, but for who he was,” Williams-Green said. “It’s humbling to be a part of that group of people and just (to) be thought of by so many people and by a committee who had to vote for that to happen.”
But Williams-Green said her inspiration comes mostly from those before her who did revolutionary things with debate and universities that paved the way for a young black woman to compete at such a high level. She also said she wants be the motivation for younger debaters and help shape their perspectives.
“What debate has taught me is there is value in your words,” Williams-Green said. “Even if you’re not debating…the words you speak have power. Speak, if you can. If you can think it, if you can formulate an idea about it, share it. A good idea turns into a bad idea if it’s locked away in a closet.”
Emporia WW, which consists of Williams-Green and her debate partner, Ryan Wash, senior communications major, made it into the final four teams at CEDA. Out of 320 speakers, Williams-Green was the sixth, and Wash was the fourth.
At the National Debate Tournament, which consists of the top 78 debate teams in the country, Emporia WW ranked ninth. Wash was also named All-American, which made Emporia WW an official All-American team because Williams-Green received the award last year.
“There was only one tournament this entire year that one of us didn’t get a speaker award,” Wash said in a March interview.
ESU’s debate team as a whole also won the Founders’ Award for 2012, which is given to the team with the most competitive points. The debate program is thriving because of their ability to work together and the talent of its members, Williams-Green said.
“We took care of business as much as we could and definitely saw some results from that,” Williams-Green said.