Isabelle Lee prepares for Speech and Debate Nationals in Birmingham


Alice Pecoraro

Sophomore, Isabelle Lee performs a piece for speech and debate she plans to compete with at nationals. Lee has been a member of the team since her freshmen year, and plans to continue being on the team for the rest of her high school career.

Donning her pajamas and black heels, sophomore Isabelle Lee clears her throat and keeps on performing “The Good Mother” by Elise S. Sharron for two hours straight in front of her harshest critic: the mirror.

For Lee, performing in front of the mirror has become a common way to practice for her upcoming speech tournaments.  On June 16-21, Lee will be the only female representative for Carlsbad High at the National Speech and Debate Tournament in Birmingham, Alabama.

“I’m going to look over my ballots, see the criticism I got, work as much fixing and tweaking into my piece that I can, because at nationals, everybody is absolutely incredible,” Lee said.  “And it is– in every round you walk in, there is no such thing as a weak round or novice round.  It’s always going to be people at the top of their game.”

Alongside juniors Rohan Deshmukh, Pavan Muddukrishna and Nik Sharma, Lee will be taking part in the week-long tournament which features nearly 120,000 students from around the country.

“For nationals, [the National Forensics League] go by regions of each state,” Lee said.  “For each region, there is a national qualifying tournament and each school can bring four people to each individual event.  At national’s qualifiers, it is the top three who get to go to nationals.”

Lee will participate in one event called Dramatic Interpretation which is basically acting: the point is to get an emotion or theme across to the judges and audience.

“For nationals, you can only pick one event so I’m doing Dramatic Interpretation,” Lee said.  “For interpretation, you get a ten-minute time frame with a thirty-second grace period to take any piece of published literature and do an honest interpretation of it.”

Regardless of placing or not, Lee plans to take what she learns to improve her own Speech and Debate career.  Being in the Speech and Debate program has taught her more about life than Lee expected.

“[Speech and Debate] is great for confidence-building, character-building and keeping you grounded,” Lee said.  “Although you may be great at one tournament or one point in time, any moment, you can trip, stumble or fall down.  It’s not only rewarding but also humbling.”