Tommy is the founder of Tabor’s revitalized competitive Debate Team, moving it from club status to an official co-curricular activity. While he treasures the art of rhetoric, he also values storytelling and listening just as much. Read how Tommy has shared his talent with Tabor, bringing his vision to life!
Building a Debate Team
Speaking from my past experiences, the title “debater” outside of its original niche has often been associated with a hint of mockery and sometimes pop-cultural judgment. But to me, “debater” is the identity that I am most proud of because of everything it has brought to me, and for all the things I can bring to my community with it.
To me, the past five years of my debate career is a testimony of passion and achievements. Prior to Tabor, I was the nationally 1st ranked debater in China, a title behind which was years of practice, thousands of pages of research, countless all-nighters pulled in the pursuit of academic inquiry, and constant traveling regionally and internationally for tournaments, through all of which I have gained my most precious possession: critical thinking.
The ability to think logically, and to maintain an open-minded and objective analytical attitude, fundamentally changed the way the world looked to me, and ultimately, opened up a whole new spectrum of possibilities in life. Critical thinking has influenced every single decision I’ve made and will surely continue to influence the ones to come.
“Debate is not worthwhile because of the trophies. It is so because of the people you meet, the things you learn, the perspectives you gain, the way you’ve learned to lose, the voices you find, and the truth you seek.”
—Ben Sprung-Keyser, 2014 World University Debate Champion
So, taking the initiative to build a debate society that I believe has intrinsic value is how I see myself contributing to the Tabor community. This is what I can bring.
With the pretty words said, the actual logistics weren’t so pleasant. The Tabor Debate Society started out as a small debate club without much interest in 2017. The transition to my vision for the club as a full-time co-curricular team offering took a lot of effort to overcome difficulties. From convincing Mr. Leary of the viability of the project, to talking people into joining an activity that they have never done before and which sounds daunting, and to organizing and coaching the team every single day, running the debate team is a huge commitment.
But I know all of the hard work is justified when my teammates tell me they have truly fallen in love with the art of rhetoric; when people come to practice genuinely feeling excited and ready to debate; when we go out for competitions and we cheer each other on no matter if we win or lose. That is how I know that I made the right decision and that I have created value by building this program, hopefully a long-lasting legacy that will continue to grow and influence more Seawolves’ lives through critical thinking and friendship.
The Debate Team is doing well in competition: Tommy won an individual 3rd place at the Loomis Invitational, while Ben Ackerman ’20 and Tommy went undefeated, 6-0, at the Choate Invitational.
“My Story” Talks
“My Story” is a project I started this school year where, about every month, we invite three student speakers to share "stories that would have remained untold.” Past speakers have shared stories such as coping with depression, being a transgender teen, and moving 17 times across America after parents' divorce.
The inspiration for this project came from a comment Mr. Quirk made at International Orientation after each new student introduced themselves: “Now we have learned one out of a million facets about you, we hope to discover many more during your time at Tabor.”
The mission of “My Story” is to achieve just that. I believe that the discussions these talks create are truly based on trust and honesty as speakers courageously reveal their vulnerable side to the audience. I believe this vulnerability will create a more tightly-knit community as interpersonal bonds develop through understanding, and understanding comes from genuine sharing and listening.
“My Story” events, unlike Chapel talks, or a TED-talk, are designed to be more like a cozy evening storytelling by the fire. The atmosphere creates a stress-free environment for both the storytellers and the audience. I am always amazed by how people I interact with everyday carry around stories that have such weight and personal meaning to them. This reminder of the complexity of each life gives me the humility and respect to truly listen and hear.
I am not a tri-varsity athlete, a magical ceramics artist, or an equity activist, but, just as those students bring their unique talents to Tabor, I, too, contribute to the Tabor community in my own unique ways.