information for the community

Lee student brings home national debate honors

Cosmo accepts his award.

Cosmo Albrect accepts his award for capturing third place at the NFL National Speech & Debate Tournament in Birmingham, Alabama.

Oprah Winfrey, the most celebrated day time talk show host ever, is a 1970 alum of the National Forensics League, also known as the NFL. Winfrey was once quoted as saying of the importance of speech and debate, “Forensics… I believe in it! It’s about the power of words to influence ideas, to uncover a higher truth, to change minds, and for a lot of people, even to change lives.”

That is what speech and debate is truly about; presenting ideas that influence others, and one of North East ISD’s own, 16-year-old Cosmo Albrecht, is becoming nationally recognized for doing just that. Cosmo recently represented the city and state at the NFL tournament in Birmingham, Alabama. Cosmo won third in the nation in “Commentary,” an extemporaneous (impromptu) event which requires competitors to display a breadth of knowledge in current events and public policy, as well as organization of thought, analysis of material, and persuasive speaking skills without notes or script.

Cosmo, who is a member of the Robert E. Lee High School Speech and Debate team, traveled to Birmingham June 16-20 to compete after qualifying at a regional tournament in February at Churchill High School. The NFL’s National Speech & Debate Tournament is the capstone of high school speech and debate activities for nearly 120,000 students around the country. Sophomore Jocelyn Hernandez also qualified for nationals and represented Lee in Birmingham in an event called Congressional Debate stating, “as my high school career progresses I find that forensics is indisputably rewarding because it impacts all of what I do outside of the competitive circuit. Hernandez goes on to say, “My creativity and critical thinking have been significantly refined by taking the scholarly world outside of the textbooks and into a real life arena.”

The road to “Nationals” was also marked by Cosmo Albrect’s third place win in the State UIL tournament in Austin in May. Cosmo won his bronze medal there in “Extemporaneous Persuasive Speaking.” The topic question he randomly drew was, “How can the Obama administration survive recent political scandals?” Typically, at each tournament competitors draw a topic question and are given 30 minutes to formulate a persuasive argument including analysis with cited sources and references to back their assertions. The students then present before an audience of their peers and a panel of 1 to 3 judges. Topics at the state tournament covered a wide-range of issues from the United States’ influence at the United Nations, to the effectiveness of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt, to the handling of the recent IRS controversy.

At the NFL National Tournament, Cosmo gave a total of 17 unscripted and unrehearsed speeches. In his final round of competition, Cosmo analyzed the lingering political effects of slavery and the Civil War in the United States. “While ability to write well and articulate my thoughts are traits that are somewhat intrinsic, events such as, Extemporaneous Speaking and Impromptu Speaking, have required me to do it under a time crunch,” says Albrecht. Cosmo hopes to pursue a career in political analysis or consulting.

Lee High School speech and debate coach, Nicole Connor says Albrecht’s passion for history, politics and current events combined with his communication abilities make him “a persuasive and formidable speaker.”

Cosmo comes from a family of gifted communicators that includes his mother, Debora Daniels Albrecht, a Churchill graduate, who worked as a primetime television news anchor for 25 years in San Antonio. “These kids like Jocelyn and Cosmo are a marvel,” says Daniels. “They are so focused and driven, so articulate and just incredibly curious about the world. It’s remarkable to see teenagers who are so well-read and well-informed. I mean, I went through high school watching “Welcome Back Kotter”, completely clueless.”

Daniels adds, “People may think he gets his speaking ability from me, but he has actually honed his skills arguing with his dad. They’ve been debating politics and issues almost nightly since Cosmo was eight or nine. It gets pretty intense. At times it’s like living with Sean Hannity and Keith Olbermann.”

Parents, coaches and students hope the recent successes of Albrecht and Hernandez will bring more attention to the speech and debate program at Lee, a Title I school where funding is needed to pay for travel to tournaments. Lee’s speech and debate team was once a highly acclaimed powerhouse in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Today, there is a sense of excitement within the program that another era of “glory days” is being launched. “It is an honor to be a part of the storied history of Lee Speech and Debate,” says Connor. “I have been a part of the San Antonio debate community for over 15 years, and to see Lee back on the National circuit for the first time in decades makes me truly proud to be a Lee Volunteer.”

Posted on July 22, 2013