Jim Henley and his champion debate squad

Congratulations to Jim Henley and his four-time national champion debate squad!

Lanier Middle School debate coach Jim Henley isn’t surprised with his team winning its fourth successive national title at the Middle School Forensic League National Championships July 1-2 at Claremont-McKenna College in Claremont, Calif.

He, too, finds it rather ordinary the squad produces individual champions in several events.

He provides his team with plenty of time to speak every time it practices. Practice makes perfect, so awards seem a given.

“We give them a foundation in strong communication skills and we develop strong speakers by doing speeches and peer critiques every day,” Henley said. “Team members know how to organize their thoughts and develop original oratory presentations. We give them lots of learning opportunities. This is very demanding at our school because it is a high school credit course.”

Since debate focuses on current events and public policy, Henley believes this training prepares the pupils for public service.

“They become very intelligent and informed about current events, and they are very articulate about expressing themselves,” Henley said.

Henley said the group’s latest title was “very sweet.”

Bittersweet, even. Henley, a Democrat, opposes Republican incumbent John Culberson for the U.S. Congressional District 7 post in the Nov. 7 election. A victory may make 2005-06 his last of a 10-year career as Lanier’s debate coach.

“If I win, I will be going to Washington, D.C., in January,” he said. “But I would leave the team in very capable hands if that was the case.”

I’ve got an interview with Henley in the works. Look for it on Monday.

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