Recent Rocky Mountain High School graduate Alecx Christensen has been recognized as one of the top 40 high school debaters in the country, the first among School District No. 1 and No. 2 to receive the honor.
Christensen, who competed as a member of the Lovell/Rocky speech and debate team, claimed the honor after competing in the National Speech and Debate Tournament, held from June 17 to June 22. The tournament pitted Christensen’s rhetoric and logic against top high school students from around the country. There was even an international presence, Christensen said.
It was Christensen’s second time at Nationals, but the first time he’s been recognized among the elite.
Quick on his feet and sharp with his tongue, Christensen finds himself well-equipped at the podium. Speech and debate is his kind of sport, Christensen said.
“Basketball and different sports cater to your body but I’ve always been focused more on my mind,” Christensen said. “Speech and debate has always been phenomenal to me for that reason.”
Christensen said he approaches speech and debate competitions as an almost perpetual devil’s advocate. When he receives the topic to be debated for a competition, he doesn’t start by determining his own opinion of it. Instead he chats up competitors he can and charms him or her into telling him their approach.
When he has a good idea of the approach everyone else is doing, he prepares the exact opposite argument.
“I essentially end up with something that nobody expected can be done,” Christensen said. “I think a lot of people get stuck in their status-quo arguments, but the judges are entertained when they hear my argument, and they start paying attention.”
That strategy paid off again for Christensen this year. The topic of the national meet was: “Resolve the United States use of targeted killing in foreign countries is unjust.”
Christensen didn’t toe the common line. His argument was that targeted killing can be good, sometimes.
“I pointed out specific examples of how (targeted killing was) used poorly, rather than just stating that targeted killing was bad. It caught a lot of people off guard,” Christensen said. “…I said yes, innocent lives can be lost, but it also can save entire groups of people.”
Christensen especially stands out in the latter rounds of debates where prepared remarks our entirely used up and the rest of the argument must be made off the top of one’s head, head coach Deb Fink said.
“I have my moments,” Christensen agreed.
That used to be Christensen’s entire strategy, after all. He’d turn the debate floor into a battle of rhetoric, hoping to out-clever his opponent in a game of wits.
The facts, though, Fink said, weren’t always there. The approach had its up and downs. Last year, it got Christensen to Nationals. But it also resulted in some of his defeats.
“I had a lot of humbling experiences those first couple years,” Christensen said.
Fink said she’s seen a transformation in Christensen because of those moments.
“I’ve been watching him grow from thinking he knew everything to learning a lot more than he actually did,” Fink said. “He learned an awful lot. He learned to listen. We start off talking, but eventually we learn to listen.”
Eventually he learned to research, too. That was the difference this year. Before Nationals began, Christensen hit the books.
“I got a lot more focused on how I wrote my cases, I started utilizing a lot more evidence,” Christensen said. “I knew I had to step it up with more evidence to be more successful.”
In the 10 years Fink has run the speech and debate program, Fink said Christensen has achieved what no other student has.
“He has well surpassed everything that we have done. I’ve only had one other student make it to the point of going to Nationals,” Fink said. “Alecx has made it twice and gone twice.”
Christensen plans to continue on to study business and law, perhaps beginning his own law firm in the future. He has no plans to continue on with speech and debate, well, at least not on a speech and debate team. He has bigger plans.
“I’m going to take the communication skills and leadership skills, along with critical thinking skills, and use it in law and business and as the future Governor of Wyoming,” Christensen said.
It’s better to announce his run now, Christensen said, 22 years before he plans to make it.
“A lot of these people who run for governor, nobody knows who they are. I think you have to start gathering your supporters early,” Christensen said. “Christensen 2040.”
Named one of the top 40 high school debaters in the country, Christensen already has at least one thing to campaign on.
By Ryan Fitzmaurcie