The Human of Hofstra - March 6, 2018
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Mary Joseph, a junior here at Hofstra. When I asked her to name one thing was she is really passionate about, her eyes lit up as she said, “I’m actually currently on the speech and debate team.”
Joseph has been on the speech and debate team since her freshman year. Throughout the past couple of years, she has participated in countless tournaments, in which she has won several trophies.
Although Joseph is a rhetorical studies major with a minor in chemistry, that was not always the case.
“Being on the speech and debate team is what changed my major from biochem to rhetoric,” Joseph said.
Joseph came from a high school that had a debate team, but she had never been involved in it before coming to Hofstra.
“When I came here, I did poetry writing. And on the speech and debate team there’s actually something called poetry interpretation,” Joseph said. “You can take different poems and cut them together and interpret the poetry to talk about something you’re really passionate about. I started doing that. I got into debate and I started doing well in debate and speech [and I thought] maybe I should stick to it.”
While we were speaking, I was curious about what the setup of her tournaments were like.
“It’s usually in another state. It starts from the morning like 8 a.m. and it goes all the way until 6 p.m. We’re just going head to head about speeches and debates. I do both, but sometimes people just do speeches or people just do debates,” Joseph said.
Between all of those tournaments Joseph participated in, I knew she must have had numerous interesting experiences and memories. When I asked her if she had any stories that stand out from a specific debate, she smiled and said, “Speech and debate. There’s a lot of great things. It gives me a voice to speak out about social issues and I love that. But at the same time, there’s also a lot of sexism and misogyny involved with it. One of my favorite times was the first time I debated with one of my favorite partners, Rita Cinquemani. We went head to head with a boy and a girl team. I brought up this example of Bill Nye the Science Guy because I love him. [The other team said] Bill Nye the Science Guy is an overpaid, undereducated man so we should just forget about what the other team said. I shot up because I was like ‘I’m about to protect my boy, Bill, right?’ I [said], ‘Did you know that Bill Nye the science guy has a Bachelor of Engineering from the Cornell University?’ they [said] ‘No’. I [said] ‘You’re welcome’ and I sat back down. After the round, their coach went up to us and [said], ‘Hey, they felt really bad about the tournament and they felt really bad about the debate. Can you go apologize?’ We felt bad because they were new so we went to the girl first and she was like, ‘It’s not me’. The dude started crying because he lost to girls. He was frustrated that he lost to two girls.”
Toward the end of our conversation, Joseph emphasized that her grandfather, who had recently passed away, is the main reason she got involved with speech and debate in the first place. Although he lived in India and was not able to see any of her tournaments in person, they were extremely close, and he always gave her so much love and support.
“He’s really the reason why I had the confidence to go into speech and debate, because if no one in my family had done this before, it sort of holds you back. But to have this figure who loved me so much go into speech and debate – do poetry performances himself – having that guide me really is what kept me going. He was really proud and I hope I can continue making him proud.”