By: Heather Neumann
Joel Erickson began competing at age 15. Unaware of the competitive aspect of speech and debate (and also uninterested—as his family was heavily involved in swimming and piano). Their family joined the Chicago-area EverReady Speech and Debate Club to gain exposure to public speaking. After the entire club relentlessly encouraged them to compete, they decided to attend the IL tournament.
Joel states, “Obviously, we didn’t know what we were doing… we arrived late, left early, missed devotions, skipped the awards ceremony. I don’t think I timed a single TP round. BUT we had a blast interacting with like minded, hospitable families, AND after several family discussions we all realized we desired to pursue speech more fully the next couple years. One of the biggest things I realized was that me simply competing in only one speech (Persuasive) was quite abnormal… so I decided to significantly up the ante next year. The following years, I enjoyed competing in Apologetics, Impromptu, Thematic, Biblical Presentation, Duo, and, my favorite, Lincoln-Douglas debate.
My parents did not make me compete… in fact I was the one that pulled them into it, especially with debate. I was very excited to be competing! Probably for the wrong reasons at first… I really wrestled with glorifying God (what I knew was right) and trying to bolster my own image (what I was inclined to do). It finally clicked with me my senior year that I am really irrelevant, and that the only thing that matters is Christ shining through me… so instead of trying to be the next debate phenom or even remembered as a spiritual leader, to focus on reflecting God through all my words and actions. The more I realized this truth, the more I enjoyed competing. I also really like arguing with people.”
When looking back, Joel wishes he would have competed in Team Policy and Extemp. After The NCFCA National Championship in 2016, Joel reflected upon his NCFCA experience, and wrote the following…
~ Reflection and Farewell ~
Dear Region VI,
I attended my first tournament two and a half years ago. When I first heard mention of “the Region VI family,” I’ll admit I was a bit bemused—incredulous of the fact that students separated by several states could forge a familial bond merely by spending a couple weeks out of the year together.
Now, I understand.
You befriended me when I was friendless. You helped me when I was helpless. You gave me hope when I was hopeless.
You inconvenienced yourself to assist me. You shared your strategies, told me your tactics, divulged your designs. You encouraged me to broaden my horizons, to try interps and limited preps and debate. You taught me how to be a more effective communicator.
When I failed, you mourned with me. When I succeeded, you rejoiced with me. When I cried out, you prayed for me.
You gave of yourself until you were empty, and yet continued to give.
You were Christ to me.
And when you stand before the throne, He will say to you, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…” and “Well done, good and faithful servants.”
You taught me that being a light is more important than being successful. You demonstrated to me that taking up my cross is better than taking first place. You showed me that pursuing the things of above is infinitely superior to grasping for the shadows of below.
You showed me that I must decrease, and that He must increase.
Some of you I knew before I began competing. Others of you I became acquainted with this year. Several of you I just met at Nationals. All of you I wish I knew better. Because each and every one of you has been an immense blessing to me.
Thank you for being my family.
Your brother in Christ,
Presently, Joel is attending Wheaton College and will likely participate in parliamentary debate or mock trial. He is pursuing a double major in Philosophy and English and would love to speak and write books on Christian worldview.