Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury:
Greatest Closing Arguments in Modern Law
by Michael S. Lief, H. Mitchell Caldwell and Ben Bycel

"Every argument here is a finely crafted verbal work of art. Remember, closing arguments are heard - not read - by the jurors. Because of this, they represent the modern-day, highest form of an ancient profession and art: that of storyteller....But there is one vital difference between yesterday's storytellers and today's advocates. Where the bard sat at the foot of the king and entertained, the lawyer's storytelling has the power to put evil men to death, to free the innocent, and to make whole the injured. Such is the power of the words, the tale, the closing argument."

Why this book? Well, my mother bought it and thought my middle son would be interested. He is a debater, he loves law and history, and he is thinking about future professions in that direction. So, she was right; he is devouring it.

But the book just got me started on a rabbit trail. Here, in the calm before the debate season storm, I am thinking about winning, losing, and persuasion; I am examining the difference between being believable and being honest, the difference between winning and success.

Being involved in speech and debate means living in the realm of competition. Being competitive means winning and losing. And enjoying winning more than losing means a close look at what wins and why it wins. Is it right to focus on winning? Or do you focus on the topic, do the research, and trust the process? One can, after all, persuade someone to believe a lie, or win on the smoothness of speech rather than the strength of the argument.

Logic, good argumentation, persuading with truth. That is my hope. And winning with that? Well, that would be grand.

Debate Season Two competition begins November 7th.

No comments: