Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Campos.
Gabrielino High School

Leon Tran makes Gabrielino history in Speech and Debate

Senior Leon Tran is the first person from Gabrielino High School to ever to become the State Champion of United States Extemporaneous Speaking. Four years ago, this feat would have been unimaginable as Tran performed in Duo Interpretation, an event in which the farthest he ever advanced was the final round of a league tournament.

U.S. Extemp. is the category in Speech and Debate in which contestants are given 30 minutes to prepare a seven minute speech answering one of three questions presented to them. Students are allowed to consult articles and evidence they gathered prior to the competition but are forbidden from using the internet. Topics can deal with U.S. foreign policy, political matters, or economic concerns, and the speech is delivered from memory.

In order to prepare for his speeches, Tran listens to music to keep his mind focused, reviewing articles 30 minutes before a round begins. His key tactic is to think ahead as he always makes sure to keep his mind three words ahead of his mouth when performing.

“[Leon] embodies what people should strive for, and that’s mainly because of his work ethic,” senior Captain Joshua Raymundo stated. “He’s learned not to crack under high pressure situations.”

For his final round at the State Championship tournament on April 22, Tran needed to answer the question: “What is the current blueprint for U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan?” His answer consisted of a three step plan to increase diplomacy by negotiating with terrorist groups, reforming the government, and providing programs for economic development. As he spoke, he incited laughter from the crowd with small jokes, creating better understanding of the subject through humor and winning the audience over with his charisma.

“The biggest challenge I faced getting to State was finding the motivation to continue because of the constant strain of learning,” Tran said, “but one of my coaches told me that once I feel like quitting, I know I’m working hard. Keeping that in mind, I pushed myself to do more.”

A year behind in experience compared to his fellow Extemp. teammates, Tran set progressive goals for himself in order to improve. He worked on fluidity before moving onto consistency, pairing this with hours of studying articles to ensure that the facts he presented were both current and accurate. Along the way, he learned how to effectively analyze the data he had to work with.

“Leon is a role model ‘extemper’ for his peers, earning him the nickname ‘Leon the Legend,’” Coach Eric Chen stated. “He leads by example and passes on his knowledge to the rest of the team.”

Currently, Tran is working towards the National Championship tournament set to be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on June 15-24. He is proud of himself for becoming U.S. Extemp. State Champion but also knows that there is still work to be done.

Everyone on the Screamin’ Eagles Speech and Debate Team wishes him luck when he competes with the top Extemp. speakers in the country for the title of best in the nation.

Gabrielino High School sent 26 students to the State Championship tournament this year. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Campos.