This I Believe

Graeme - Charleston, South Carolina
Entered on September 25, 2006
Age Group: Under 18

I believe in the power of words, the power of persuasion and argument. Argument and persuasion influence so much of our daily lives that many of us do not even realize their impact. From courtroom cases to normal conversations concerning controversial topics to television and radio, rhetoric is a vastly important portion of life.

My exposure to argument, like countless others, first began with intense dialogue between my brother and me. Fighting, screaming, and arguing are an obvious component of any sibling relationship, including mine. In my household, the mediator was normally my mom. If a disagreement arose, my brother and I were required to tell our side to her. I cannot even fathom the number of times this process occurred. We argued about everything from who is permitted to sit in the front of the car, who deserves the biggest portion of dessert, who hit whom first, who started what when, etc. From an early age, I understood the value of words and their application into everyday life.

When I entered high school, I was firmly resolved to join the Debate Team. Although poorly run and hopelessly uninformed at first, I continued with the program. I met one of my best friends, and at the same time honed my arguing skills. When my friend and I competed for the first time in the Public Forum style of debate, we were captivated immediately. As partners, we must work together to research, write cases, and argue effectively in order to persuade a community member to vote for our side of the debate. Each round of debate, I become more enthusiastic about arguing, more enraptured with the power of words, more in love with the powers of persuasion.

This past summer I attended a camp at Yale University, and I signed up for and thoroughly enjoyed a mini-course about the death penalty in the United States. Initially, the class was divided about equally on the death penalty’s use. I was definitely the most vocal anti-death penalty student. Every day I tried my hardest to clearly state my position and why it is empirically and ethically correct, sometimes becoming frustrated with my peers’ misunderstandings of my opinion. At the end of the week long mini-course, our views were again stated, and there were some in the class who came to realize, see, and support my and others’ views, and, in essence, switched sides on the issue.

With all the effort I put into articulating my opinions in that course and everyday, with all the frustration that goes along with arguing, with all the powers of persuasion I employed then and employ every day of my life, I am content with no one, in the end, accepting my views. What I want is for them to see another side of the issue. However, if someone sees, understands, and accepts my views, I am further assured of the powers of persuasion, and I move on to another issue.