Tasks of Your Constructive Speech
- Lay a Solid Foundation
- State the Resolution
- Define Key Terms
- Summarize the Affirmative's Case
- Explain Affirmative's Procedure
- Establish the Need for Change
- End with an Appeal
Tasks of Your Cross-Examination
Tasks of Your Summary/Rebuttal
Evaluation Form for the First Affirmative
Lay a Solid Foundation
As first affirmative debater you introduce the issues. In your constructive speech, you tell the audience and judges where your side is going, and you begin building the affirmative's case in support of the proposition. Your case, which your team prepares before a policy debate, should consist of three stock issues: need for the change stated in the resolution, plan for effecting the change, and benefits of making the change. In turn, each issue requires specific arguments backed by evidence. By doing preliminary tasks and by establishing the need for the change in your constructive speech, you lay a solid foundation for your team's case.
State the Resolution
Start by reminding the audience about the issue. By stating the proposition, you set the context of the key terms that you will define. Then, show the purpose and importance of the debate. Why debate the issue? What will the debate accomplish? It may seem obvious why the issue is important to your listeners, but you need to articulate their concern. Then, give a brief history. Just key events, decisions, and policies leading to the current situation. And, outline the general issues. What main questions are to be addressed in the debate? All this in a few critical sentences.
Define Key Terms
To argue intelligently your team and the negative team should talk the same language. The proposition should mean approximately the same to both sides. Or, if you disagree about meanings of key terms and those meanings are critical for your cases, then the two sides must defend their respective definitions as an overriding issue. Such definitional debates are sometimes unavoidable. However, you usually offer neutral and conventional definitions, the negative concurs, and the debate proceeds. You define only those terms that the audience may not know well or that the opposition may differ on the meaning.
In "Resolved: That capital punishment should be replaced by life imprisonment," for example, you would define "capital punishment" and "life imprisonment" which are used commonly but need more precise definitions for your debate. Also, you define key terms, such as legal phrases, that are not in the proposition but that your team intends to use. For example, if you intend to use "cruel and unusual punishments" from the U.S. Constitution later in a capital punishment debate, then you interpret the phrase at the beginning, with help by the Supreme Court.
Summarize the Affirmative's Case
Before entering the labyrinth of the debate, your listeners and judges need to know where your team is going -- the old technique of "tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em, then tell 'em, then tell 'em what you told 'em." Without a map, your listeners may hear a slew of contentions and facts, and still not understand your main arguments. So, begin the debate, as you will end it, with a summary of issues. For example, "My partner and I will show you the need, practicality, and benefits of euthanasia. We will show that thousands of comatose and dying patients need this humane solution, their families need relief, and our society needs to reduce consumption medical services. We will show that euthanasia can be implemented easily by obtaining informed decisions by patients and their families, and by changing our laws to protect doctors from prosecution and law suits. And, we will show that euthanasia will save immeasurable suffering and measurable billions of dollars."
Explain Affirmative's Procedure
Once having told what you will tell them, then tell your listeners who will tell them. Tell them that you will handle the need issue and that your partner will handle the practicality (plan) and benefits issues. As with your summary, this preview helps your listeners know your position, for only by knowing it can they adopt it.
Establish the Need for Change
Preliminaries over, you enter into the main body of your case which your partner will continue in his or her constructive speech. Begin the first plank of your case, which is the need issue. Give contentions and evidence that support the need issue. A contention is a causal statement backed by a line of reasoning. For example, "We contend that many thousands of patients with incurable disease can end their anguish and torment only by euthanasia. This is because medical science has not found ways of alleviating their pain, even with massive and addictive pain-killers. Similarly, many thousands of the families of these patients, and patients who are comotose, can end their distress only by euthanasia. This is because they would do anything to relieve the suffering of their loved ones, yet the law does not allow such relief." You reinforce your contentions with facts and vivid examples, personalizing any statistics that you use. You authenticate your information by giving its sources. And, you can dramatize the situation with a personal experience, but do not your story telling kill your time allotment.
In presenting your case, specifically this need section, give at three different arguments for changing the status quo. Why three? The answer was discovered by Ancient Greeks and given by Aristotle: structures with at least three columns of support are strongest. If your case rests on a single reason for change, it can be toppled easily by an attack on that reason. Two different reasons make your case stronger but are more vulnerable than three. However, those reasons must be significant and different. For example, the three reasons might be different types: political, economical, and psychological. So, why stop at three reasons? Time. After doing your preliminary tasks, you scarcely have time to develop and substantiate three arguments for change. If you try more, you will only talk too fast and impress your listeners with the shallowness of your arguments. Moreover, they will not remember them. So, focus on three important reasons why the policy needs to change.
As you frame your arguments and select your evidence, keep in mind that you are required to show that the need for change is significant. Moreover, you must show that it is significant with solid evidence, not just give your opinion that it is significant. And, cite the sources of your evidence; otherwise, it will sound fabricated. Later in the debate, your partner will present a plan and defend its practicality, particularly its cost. That cost will likely be weighed against the significance of the problem. Unless you have shown that the need's significance outweighs the cost, then the plan will not sell, however cleverly devised.
End with an Appeal
Your constructive speech is the first of segment in a policy debate, so that the dramatic ending of a regular Toastmasters speech would be anticlimactic in a policy debate. Yet, your speech requires a proper ending. Its most effective ending is to quote or paraphrase the resolution, and appeal quietly to your listeners to adopt it. In their minds, your appeal reinforces your case and also circles to your opening for perfect closure.
Plan Your Strategy
According to Freeley you have four goals in your cross-examination: to clarify any part of the opponents' case needed for your case, to expose a defect in their case, to advance your own position, and to respond to an attack. Here are examples and analyses (Austin Freeley's Argumentation & Debate, 6th Edition, pp. 295-299).
All these points and more are given in brilliant advice for cross-examination by Edward Benett Williams and quoted by Freeley (p. 294):
It is ... the art of putting a bridle on a witness who has been called to do you harm, and of controlling him so well that he helps you. You must think of him as a man with a knife in his hand who is out to stab you, and you must feel your way with him as if you were in a dark room together. You must move with him, roll with him. You must never explore or experiment during cross examination. You must never ask a question if you do not already know the answer. If you do know it and the witness refuses to say what you know, you can slaughter him. Otherwise he may slaughter you. Never attack a point that is unassailable. And if you hit a telling point, try not to let the witness know it. Keep quiet and go on. The time to dramatize it to the jury is during your closing argument.Prepare and Exchange Lists of Questions
Before the debate, prepare a list of 8-10 questions and give it to your partner. This list will be augmented by questions that occur to your partner during the debate. Just before your rebuttal, your partner should ask those questions of the second negative speaker. These "setup" questions will be about major arguments and evidence in both affirmative speeches. With luck, your opponent will answer incorrectly or not at all. The correct answers should not appear until your rebuttal when you zing the opposition. Even if the second negative answers correctly, your main arguments will have been repeated and underscored.
When you interrogate the first negative just before your partner's constructive speech, you reciprocate by using questions supplied by your partner and that you form during the debate.
Control the Examination
You control the interrogation with short questions requiring short answers, mainly yes or no. By asking long questions or any "why" or "what" questions, you invite the answerer to launch into long responses damaging to your case. You also lose control. If you permit, your opponent will use your time to extend their arguments. Do not let that happen; interrupt overly long answers. Also, ask questions that put the negative on the defensive. Ask about facts that they cannot deny and that undermine their position. To ask about such facts, however, you must know the answer of every question you ask, as Williams says above.
As for your responses when you are examined, you answer confidently and advance the affirmative case whenever possible. If your examiner does not control the interrogation tightly, then you slip in your own arguments and evidence. Even if you can only repeat those given during your constructive speech, you implant them deeper in your listeners' minds. If you introduce new arguments while you are examined, then they must be developed in your partner's speech.
Review Your Arguments and Evidence
Having told what you were going to say and then saying it, you now tell your audience what your side said. In other words, you review your main arguments, evidence supporting your arguments, and rebuttals of counter arguments. You cannot present new arguments; however, you can rebut arguments introduced unwisely in the first negative's own summation.
Avoid the New; Rephrase the Old
Because you speak last, any new argument or evidence could not be rebutted and thus would be unfair. These things you cannot do. Things you can do are to rephrase your arguments emphatically, reprise your most convincing evidence, and rebut attacks. The negative side should also not introduce new material in its Rebuttal/Summary. If it does, then point out the transgression and rebut it.
Make a Final Appeal
Appeal strongly to your audience to adopt the proposition. Be sure to leave yourself enough time to end with a bang! It is your last chance to persuade the audience and win the debate.