When he joined the team, Dixon, the team point leader in 1982, knew he wanted to go into law and politics, but he said he wouldn’t have had the skills necessary without the team.
“I don’t know if it’s a chicken or the egg type thing. Are successful people drawn to speech or does speech make people successful? I don’t know. All I know is there’s an intersection between the two,” he said. “... It has made a dramatic impact in the lives of generations of people in this community. However I don’t know, would they have been successful without it? I don’t know the answer to that.
“All I know is that personally it had an impact on me, and you know, I just think it has a multiplier effect. If you can do this, then you can do anything. You can be a doctor, you can be a lawyer, you can be a teacher.”
After the team was inactive during the 1990s, Dixon brought it back to life a few years ago. Recently, he appeared before the Winchester Board of Commissioners and the Clark County Fiscal Court with members of the current team to try and raise awareness about it.
“Every one of you all is successful, every one of you all are elected officials and have done great things with your life, and the one thing that I think everybody has in common — Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, whatever — is this one factor,” he said to county commissioners. “You have the ability to communicate a message. I think that’s what we try to teach. Whatever your message is, we want you to have the confidence to stand up in front of a crowd, and the ability to present your message.”
Now, he said, there’s not a lot of knowledge about the program within the school.
“ ... and it’s taken a while to just kind of build it up where we were big enough to take a bus,” he said. “Out of all the kids at GRC, we have 13 active members on our team. And so there’s some teams in Kentucky that have 50 members and are able to do a lot more. And we would like to build it up and get as many people as possible that would like to be involved in it, involved.”
His son, Clay Dixon, is a GRC senior and was the team point leader in 2011. When he was a freshman and sophomore, the team was not a “sought out” team to be on, he said.
“I guess last year ... we got a bunch of other people coming in, and it started getting better,” he said.
Team members meet at GRC early Saturday mornings and take a bus to the all-day competitions.
Categories now include humorous interpretation, dramatic interpretation, storytelling, duo interpretation, impromptu, duo impromptu and debate.
Ashley Taulbee, a GRC senior in her first year on the team, was involved in the drama club and decided to join the team to try something different.
“It’s definitely helped me conquer stage fright because I had that really bad with plays ... and then speech helped me to get really comfortable with just presenting in front of people, and not acting, just being myself,” she said.
GRC’s chapter of the National Speech and Debate Honor Society, or the National Forensic League, was established April 18, 1934. Whether they knew at the time what they wanted to be in life, many of the alumni attribute their career success at least partly to their involvement with the team.
Walson, a 1980 GRC graduate, joined the team after he found out he couldn’t play basketball and his Spanish teacher, the team coach at the time, encouraged him. At that time, the school was known for its team, he said.
By his junior year, he knew he wanted to be a lawyer and got serious about the debate component. Some of the issues on the debating block at the time included gun control, the hostage situation in Iran and dependence on foreign oil, he said.