By Ian C. Beck ’12
Senior Bill McDonald ’12 competes in a Speech and Debate event known as extemporaneous speech.
“Extemp,” as it is more commonly known, requires participants to research a question about the economy, politics or other well-known topics and deliver a speech in response to it.
According to Speech and Debate coach Ms. Elizabeth Clarke, participants are given a question and have 30 minutes to research the topic.
At the conclusion of that half hour, the competitors must deliver a seven-minute speech, fully memorized, while quoting up to 10 sources from their research.
In the two weeks leading up to the national Speech and Debate tournament last year, Ms. Clarke recommended that students complete 40 of these speeches as practice.
McDonald did 57.
In a typical week, students on the Speech and Debate team who perform extemp will deliver one or two of those speeches. McDonald does five.
McDonald arrived at Brophy as a transfer student before his sophomore year. He moved to Arizona from Massachusetts and his arrival did not go over quietly.
“I got about five or six different emails that we had a new transfer student from Massachusetts and his name is Bill McDonald and he did speech and debate,” Ms. Clarke said.
McDonald said that from July 2009 to February 2010, the move was “pretty awful.”
He jokingly recalled how his Student Council speech after sophomore year essentially revolved around the theme that he hated Arizona and maybe he would hate Arizona less if he were elected.
“Speech and Debate really helped me get through that … I think that is the most important thing in a situation like that,” McDonald said. “You can’t feel like you’re stagnant, like you’re an immovable object. So it was really hard but I tried to look forward, I tried to find hope and I think it worked.”
He now says that he really likes Arizona and that it feels like home for him.
Even as a sophomore, McDonald had an immediate impact on the team, making a senior-heavy group and performing well at a Speech and Debate tournament put on by Harvard.
“He was very smart,” Ms. Clarke said of her initial thoughts of McDonald. “He was already very talented. He had been doing speech and debate for a long time.”
Last year, as a junior, McDonald placed fifth in the national tournament and as a result automatically qualified for the national tournament this year.
McDonald was also invited to the Montgomery Bell Academy Round Robin, a tournament that only invites the top 16 students across the entire country who do extemp.
Despite his success in Speech and Debate, McDonald remains humble.
“He never, ever talks about it,” Ms. Clarke said of McDonald’s success. “I mean we talk about it amongst ourselves because it’s really fun to talk about how you’re going to win. But he’s never like, ‘I’m awesome, I’m going to win.’ He’s just very, very humble; very modest. It’s never gone to his head.”
Two other things that define McDonald are his dedication and poise.
“He has a quiet confidence about it,” Ms. Clarke said. “He wants to win but he would never have a tantrum about it if he didn’t.”
“But he’s very objective,” she said. “He knows when he’s been beat, not that it happens all that often but he knows when it happens. He’s very, very realistic about it but he wants to win every tournament.”
McDonald said his motivation is three-fold, listing his affection for performing, his desire to give back to the team and his family as the major reasons why he is so determined to do well.
“(Other teammates) look up to him but he’s so normal and nice and he’s just so humble,” Ms. Clarke said.
Ms. Clarke also said that the Massachusetts native has become an unofficial coach for the extemp event. He routinely watches younger students give speeches and helps them with critique and advice.
McDonald acknowledges that he tries to do what he can to help younger students on the team but won’t go so far as to call himself a leader.
“I feel like I try and do what I can for the younger kids in extemp and the kids who are learning how to do it … so I would say that I try and lead, I don’t know if that qualifies me as a lead-er but I do what I can,” McDonald said.
As he nears the conclusion of his Speech and Debate career at Brophy, McDonald said the impact he wants to leave behind is one of giving back.
“Overall I’d say the legacy I want to leave behind is I want to be seen as somebody who the younger guys, even when I’m gone, can go to for help with their events,” he said. “I want to have, through my work with them, made them better.”
Depending on where he goes to college, McDonald said he would like to come back and help coach the team.
But McDonald’s participation around campus is not limited to the Speech and Debate team. McDonald went on the Kairos 113 retreat, was a Student Council member last year and is a regular at Brophy sporting events.
John Medici ’12 and McDonald served on the Student Council together last year.
“Well, after getting to know him from Student Council last year and having multiple classes with him this year, he’s just one of those guys who is extremely intelligent but at the same time you can have extremely ridiculous conversations with,” Medici said.
“He’s just one of those one-of-a-kind guys,” Medici added. “(He’s) extremely intelligent; (he) can talk about a Republican debate last week and he can talk about the movie you saw recently. That’s Bill McDonald for you.”