April 13, 2001

Hail to the Victor

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Senior Steve Zammit seems like a normal guy. He is a double major in economics and government, like most people in the Arts college. He is a big fan of baseball, and like most of the country outside of the Empire State, is hoping for the Red Sox to dethrone the Yankees.

However, there is one rather impressive difference between you and Steve: he just won the American Forensics Association National Individual Event Tournament title.

In plain english — he is the top collegiate speaker in the nation.

The AFA National Championship, held in Washington D.C., this year, consists of 11 individual events split between speeches and acting. Each event has preliminary rounds, a quarterfinal round, a semifinal round and the finals.

Steve competed in six of these events, making it to the quarterfinal round in all but one event, and the final round in four.

And once he made it to the final round, Steve was in rare form. He took fourth in the impromptu speech final round, third in the communication analysis speech final round, second in the informative speech final round about cutting-edge technology and he won the persuasive speech event.

The national champion is determined by how many points competitors earn from their finish in each event.

What makes Steve’s victory so impressive is the work he put into not only his speeches, but the Cornell Forensics team.

The squad has three coaches who help the competitors, but given the number of people on the team and the quantity of speeches each competitor has, it is impossible for the coaches to work with everyone. So for the past few years, Steve has run the extemporaneous speaking team here, by giving assignments and running practices.

Last spring Steve was at Cornell-in-Washington, which would force most people to take a reprieve from any team they are a member of.

Not Steve. He would race across the country to help the squad and be a vital member of the team.

Indeed, much of the team relies on Steve’s leadership and commitment.

“Not only is he an amazing competitor, but he also makes it a point to help the newest members of the team,” said junior Bilge Tanyeri.

For Steve, Forensics appears to be more of a way of life than just a club.

From humble beginnings during his sophomore year of high school where he got an impromptu topic at the end of class and used the night to write and memorize the speech that earned him the title as the top speaker in the land, Steve has loved his experiences in Forensics.

“The [high school] speech coach had this artificial concept of me actually being good [from the impromptu speech], and said I should join the team. I have enjoyed every minute of it since,” he said.

While at a tournament, Steve watches other speakers to enjoy their speeches and learn from them, not in the hopes of crushing them in the judges’ minds. He has made friends all over the country, in addition to the relationships he has forged with members on the Cornell squad.

And as the second individual national champion from East Hill, he has solidified Cornell’s reputation as one of the top forensic teams in the land, despite other schools giving scholarships for their programs.

Now, after having years of work pay off in the form of a national championship, Steve has become a legend on the team he has worked so hard to improve.

Clearly, Steve’s work ethic, talent, leadership and devotion are qualities that not only any athlete, but also all of us should admire.

And for that, he is truly a champion.

Archived article by J.V. Anderton