OPINION: What it’s like to debate behind the microphone

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I arrived 30 minutes early to the Student Union and walked upstairs with Evan Steckler, senior in architectural engineering and my fellow debater for the College Republicans at Kansas State. We quickly ran through the topics of our debate with the Young Democrats at K-State to refresh our memory, then prepared for showtime.

I was sitting behind the microphone, getting ready to put into words the ideas I’ve been thinking about. In trying to formulate my thoughts, I took a moment to pause and look around at the room. Every individual there came for a reason, whether it was an interest in politics or extra credit for class.

But we were all there now at K-State, trying to answer complicated questions about things like taxes and healthcare, and we respectfully did so. That’s an accomplishment — college kids, who are so often called brash and uninterested in politics, can reason through problems together, despite our differences.

The biggest surprise was that debating person-to-person makes you realize your real “opponent” doesn’t exist. You’re not arguing against an “evil idea,” you’re arguing against a real person with real beliefs, intentions, thoughts and feelings.

The public forum is an exemplar of American democracy. It upholds the idea that we all have a voice and that the clash of ideas is paramount to the creation of the best society.

Too often, we become polarized when we are on the other side of a screen and all we see are statements or arguments taken out of context. After speaking with a person face to face, we may still disagree, but now we realize that we are all working toward a common solution.

We all care about the people around us and want the best for our society. That common ground is often lost in a virtual debate, but it’s hard to miss when we’re brought together in a public forum setting.

Olivia Rogers is a freshman in political science. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to [email protected]

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