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National Forensic League: BHS student qualifies for nationals

Marcus Wax visited the Civil Rights Institute across the street from the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., which was a focal point of the civil rights movement of the late 1960s, and features a statue of Martin Luther King Jr. Wax was in Birmingham last month to compete in National Forensic League speech competition. Submitted Photo

Last month, a student from Bemidji High School talked his way into the NFL, literally.

But this student wasn't playing football. Marcus Wax, a member of the BHS Speech Team, competed in the National Forensic League (NFL) Tournament under the Student Congress category.

Wax, a recent graduate from BHS, qualified for the national tournament in Birmingham, Ala., where he competed from June 14-19. There are three districts for the NFL in Minnesota. Wax was a top Senator for the Northern Lights district, which includes Bemidji and Duluth.

At the national competition, students are guaranteed two full days to compete and then are eliminated until the finals round. Wax made it to the national competition; he did not advance to the semi-finals round.

"He was close to advancing to the semi-finals," said BHS speech coach, Tom Lucas. "He was competing well, in the middle of the pack."

Lucas started coaching the team five years ago and reintroduced the team into the NFL, which is the nation's largest speech and debate society.

"When I took over the speech program here, one of my priorities was to get back into the National Forensic League," he said.

About 3,000 students compete in the national competition under the following categories: Student Senate and Congress, Debate, Speech and Speaking.

This is the third year that BHS students have participated in the Student Senate and Congress category.

"I brought three people who were willing to stick their neck out during the first time we had gone," Lucas said.

This tournament was Wax's second time making it to the national tournament for Senate category. Last year he competed in Las Vegas, Nev.

Participants follow strict parliamentary procedure, introduce bills and resolutions, and debate to deliver speeches in the Student Senate and Congress category. Wax said that a strong command of politics, history and current events is helpful for these debates.

"You get all bills three months ahead of time," he said. "You know what you're going to say, more or less, but you may have to rework something or emphasize a new point."

Lucas said that it's a difficult congress for Minnesota speakers because other teams are competing almost every week

"We just don't have the resources to do that," he said. "They are better prepared from repetition and knowing the ins and outs. We always seem to do reasonably well, but can't seem to go to the next level."

At nationals, the top 60 competitors were advanced to the finals round, but Wax came in only one or two spots shy of advancing.

"There are no sour grapes on my part about my experience. They were very good," Wax said.

Wax also said that the most interesting part of this kind of debate was the different viewpoints he encountered from urban to rural issues.

"I really have to say that both years I have gained a greater appreciation for more unique regional challenges," he said. "You talk to someone from Arizona or New Mexico about irrigation issues - it's huge."

The BHS speech team season runs from the end of November until April. Eleven seniors graduated from the team this year, but Lucas said he is hopeful about the upcoming students from the high school and Bemidji Middle School.

Wax is currently living in Grand Forks, N.D., and will be starting school at the University of North Dakota in the fall studying public administration.