Indian American JJ Kapur wins National Speech and Debate Tournament

National Speech and Debate Tournament is considered as the most prestigious high school competition in the US.

JJ Kapur, an Indian American Sikh high school student at Valley High School junior in West Des Moines, Iowa, has won this year’s National Speech and Debate Tournament held in Birmingham, Alabama.

While participating in the competition, Kapur made a stunning composition titled ‘Let’s Dance’, which addressed perplexing social issues that are prevalent in the American society.

National Speech and Debate Tournament is considered as the most prestigious high school competition in the US.

Kapur won the prize in the completion in the original oratory category. The high schooler’s speech started with steps from feel-good Bollywood songs that invoked his experience living in the US as a member of Sikh-American community that frequently comes under hate crime.

According to West Des Moines community schools, Kapur topped in the semifinal and finals of the tournament and now has gone home with the coveted championship.

“I found that the story of Bollywood was just that, a story….And this disconnect between story and reality extends far beyond India’s border. We are a storytelling society. We each seek to provide our scattered and confusing experiences with a sense of coherence, by arranging the episodes of our lives into stories. but our problem arises when our complex realities does not match the narrative,” said Kapur during his speech.

While explaining to the audience, Kapur took the example of Mahatma Gandhi whose narrative was nonviolence and civil disobedience.

“The Gandhi narrative is so powerful that when I related these details to the members of my own family, they (paused for effect) flipped (another pause) out,” he tells the crowd before him.

Kapur also took the opportunity to point the attention of the audience to the stereotyping of Sikh and Muslims post the 9/11 attacks.

He mentioned in his speech an instance when his family was watching the destruction caused by the terrorists on 9/11 and suddenly he said his father on screen, but it turned out to be the picture of Al-Qaeda’s former leader Osama Bin Laden.

“My father was afraid that Americans would see his beard and turban and think ‘terrorist’,” he said.

His speech took an emotional turn when he walked the audience through a humiliating incident where he was called “Osama” by a group of unknown guys.

“I remember thinking, ‘I’m an American. I’ve lived here my whole life. This is my home,” he said.

“As a Sikh minority, I want to use speech and debate to amplify the voice of Sikhs in my community. I want to use the platform I have for advocacy,” Kapur said in his championship winning speech.

A Lincoln-Douglas debater since seventh grade, Kapur is currently the only original orator in the speech and debate team of on Valley High School. He also gives training to a ninth-grade team.

Earlier in February this year, Kapur had won the Harvard National Forensics Tournament.

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