I wish I could blog more, but honestly these days here at Yale are the busiest I've ever experienced. I've described my day to my friends as "wake up, get ready, walk, eat, walk, lecture, walk, eat, walk, lecture, lecture, walk, eat, walk, lecture, work, work, work, sleep". An instructor here even admitted that the Ivy Scholars Program is more rigorous than college; it's like a whole semester crammed into two weeks. However, the intensity of this program is definitely producing results. I've become knowledgeable on topics such as demographic trends, General George Patton, the Nazi Empire, China in the status quo, etiquette, identity politics, the U.S. healthcare system and reforming it, leadership, and so much more. However, I would like to talk about something other than lectures today: limited preparation speeches.
In the Ivy Scholars Program, every student has to do either a persuasive speech or impromptu and extemporaneous speeches. If you choose to do the persuasive speech, you compose (and try to memorize) a short speech on any topic of your choosing. If you choose the latter option, impromptu and extemp speeches, you have limited time to prepare for each. The impromptu speech is one where you choose one out of three given topics, prepare for three minutes, then deliver a 5 minute speech. The extemp speech is one where you receive a statement about current event topic the night before, then present an evidence-based, 7 minute speech on the statement the next day. I do impromptu speech in Forensics, so I immediately signed up for the impromptu and extemp speeches.
On Sunday night, I did my first impromptu speech. The topic I selected out of my 3 choices was "George Washington". My thesis statement was "George Washington is someone who we must strive to be like not only because he was the first and one of the greatest American presidents, but because he embodied truthfulness, unity, and having a grand strategy." I think I did fairly well, and so did my group instructor, Bryce. He gave me useful feedback as well, such as that my gesticulation enhanced my oration and that I could walk more naturally when doing my pacing from one spot to another to emphasize my change in points.
Today, I gave my extemp speech. I was truly lucky, because the topic I was assigned was "Is victory against the Taliban possible in Afghanistan?" which is essentially my Marshall Brief topic, "How can we preven Afghanistan from becoming a failed state?". I started my speech by describing Afghanistan when under Taliban rule by asking, "Can you imagine a world without music, dancing, or movies? What about one where you can't fly a kite or shave your beard--if you're a guy...well...if you're a hairy woman as well..." The last part of that line was definitely more of a Freudian slip, but it garnered many laughs, which is nearly always a good sign in public speaking. The rest of my speech took on a serious tone, as I described the three not-so-simple steps that would make victory against the Taliban possible in Afghanistan. The first step was defeating them militarily. This would consist of having the US and NATO forces already stationed there training the Afghan National Army and the International Security Assistance Force training the Afghan National Police. Also, the Afghans would have to consolidate their military gains in order to force the Taliban to fight in the traditional way rather than with their guerilla tactics. The second step was legalizing the poppy/opium trade. Right now, it's illegal in Afghanistan despite the fact that Afghanistan is responsible for 93% of the world's supply and poppy farming is the biggest industry in the country. Legalizing it would bring the profits out of the hands of the Taliban and into the Afghanistan economy. It would be based on how Turkey legalized poppy/opium in the 1970s. The third part of the strategy was reforming the government. Right now, the "central" government doesn't control 60% of the country, and this is mostly due to lack of ties between the provincial and central government. In order to reform it, Afghanistan would have to strengthen ties between Kabul and the rest of the country. I explained that although victory over the Taliban now currently seems out of reach, but it isn't with these three strategies.
My final, least impressive speech was one based on a quote by Benjamin Franklin. The quote was, "There never was a good war or a bad peace". I talked about World War II, the Great Depression, and interacting with parents. Truly, by this point I was tired and tired of doing speeches, but I managed to effectively elaborate on each of my examples.
Now, with the writing assignments and speaking sessions finished, I feel very relieved. However, I still have to work a lot with my group on the power point and the presentation for our Marshall Brief. We have a four-hour work session tommorow, though, and hopefully we'll be productive and churn out an exemplary work of grand strategy.
The four of us ate dinner with Ms. Jessie Rojas yesterday. We were able to catch up on what all of us were doing and talk about many other things such as her job as a social worker. I'm very grateful to her for taking the time to meet with us and for Professor Luong for organizing the get-together.