In need of an event, John Klingele opted for one of the most difficult — a decision that paid off.
The Platte County sophomore placed fourth in international extemporaneous speaking during competition in the Heart of America District of the National Speech and Debate Association earlier this month at Park Hill High School. Competitors can only compete at nationals in one event, so Klingele ended up pushed up to third and qualified to compete this summer, becoming the fourth student from Platte County to reach that level since 2000.
So why take on the challenge of a generally unpopular event?
“I did it all year last year along with humorous interpretation,” Klingele explained. “I enjoyed (extemporaneous). It was a lot of fun, but I never was very successful last year. This year, districts came around, and I needed an event. I just went with it because I had some experience at it, and I’m guessing that was a good choice.”
Klingele’s grueling district tournament involved six rounds of speaking.
In International Extemporaneous Speaking, students receive a choice of three questions related to international current events and have 30 minutes to prepare a 7-minute speech answering the selected question. They can only consult articles and evidence gathered prior to the contest, generally kept in an “extemp box,” but may not use the Internet during preparation.
Topics range from country-specific issues to regional concerns to foreign policy, and the speech is delivered from memory.
Klingele was one of 12 qualifiers for the semifinal round, drawing a comfortable question on the Ebola virus. In the finals, he faced a question about Venezuela’s government and despite an admitted challenge received high scores, including the top mark from one of the judges.
“I think extemp not only teaches you to use what you have but use what you don’t have, in a sense,” Klingele said. “This isn’t just for me. This is for the school as a whole and for the team as a whole to raise some awareness about what the team actually stands for.”
Klingele considered himself an introvert coming into high school but credits speech and debate with a nearly total transformation.
Now a willing public speaker in most situations, he wants to raise awareness of the club to the rest of the school. Previous national qualifiers have been limited with Brock Babcock competing in 2000 for dramatic interpretation and Cassandra Reeder going in 2002 for dramatic interpretation and again in 2004 for original oratory.
Prior to Klingele, Sebastian Smith was Platte County’s most recent national qualifier in 2009 for humorous interpretation.
Klingele will compete at the national tournament June 12-17 in Salt Lake City. From there, he plans to continue his dedication to speech and debate with plans to put an increased focus on extemporaneous speaking as he progresses to his junior year.
“I feel like I’ve kind of found my place,” he said.
Last weekend, Platte County senior Madison McBratney qualified for the Missouri State Speech and Debate Championships in United States extemporaneous speaking out of the District 3 tournament. She also went last year in Lincoln-Douglas debate. Klingele just missed a state spot in international extemp, placing fourth.
Platte County will have one more national qualifying tournament on April 5.