Akshar Rambachan, who recently graduated from Eastview High School in Apple Valley, Minnesota, won two national oratorical honors in as many months this year.
In May, he took the national title for extemporaneous speech organised by the National Catholic Forensic League in its Grand National Tournament, and last month he won the national championship in international extemporaneous speaking in the National Speech Tournament sponsored by the National Forensic League.
In winning the international speaking title, he was following his sister Ishanaa, who won the NFL championship in 2004 as a high school senior. Akshar, who was captain of the debate and speech teams and involved in the National Honor Society at his high school, took part in the NFL national speech contest by becoming the Minnesota state champion in April.
In January he won the NFL Lincoln-Douglas state championship in debate. In extemporaneous speaking, a contestant draws three questions on international or domestic topics -- depending on the category of the competition -- selects one, and has 30 minutes to prepare an answer to the question. Then the student has to speak on the topic for seven minutes.
"I won the national championship in International Extemporaneous Speaking (IX in short), which is one of the six national speech categories (at the competition). I was both overall champion in IX and final round champion," Askhar told rediff India Abroad. He will attend St Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, this fall to study pre-med and political science.
For IX, he said researching and reading about major world topics and issues was important. He said he reads the Economist, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and other magazines, journals and think tank publications regularly.
"From reading, I then compile filing bins of research categorised by topic area. In total, I spent around three hours a day for six months in preparation for this tournament," he said.
In the NFL national tournaments held in Las Vegas, Nevada, June 15 to 20, his category had more than 220 competitors. After six preliminary rounds, 60 competitors advanced to the next level. After six more elimination rounds, six contestants remained for the final round. The final round was held on stage at University of Nevada at Las Vegas in front of over 1,000 competitors and a 13-judge panel.
"In the final round, I spoke on whether or not the West was headed for a new Cold War with Russia. I argued that while tensions between the West and Russia will continue, we are not headed for a new Cold War," Akshar said. There was also a period of cross-examination with the other speakers in the round.
"In total, I competed in 13 rounds and gave 13 distinct speeches on issues ranging from the Pakistani coalition government, the future of trans-Atlantic relations, global inflation, AIDS in Africa, Turkey-European Union relations, Israel-Hamas (conflict), etc," he said.
Akshar, who is very involved in his local temple said, "I am a very avid Indian classical music fan and I have been playing the tabla since the fifth grade."
Founded in 1925, NFL is the nation's oldest and largest debate and speech honour society.