Wilks is best school speaker in world
Talk is good — as champion debater Kenza Wilks can attest.
Learning the structured arguing of a point is “more and more important” in today’s acrimonious world.
Fresh from the World Schools Debating Championships in Bali this month, Mr Wilks ranked first as speaker out of 460 competitors from 52 countries.
Calling it “an amazing achievement”, the 18-year-old said he could not be prouder.
“I’d like to thank my coaches and all of the people that supported me throughout my debating career over the past five years — because I am certain I wouldn’t have been able to achieve this without their coaching and assistance,” Mr Wilks told The Royal Gazette.
Last year, the former Somersfield student captained the England team to victory at the contest in Stuttgart; earlier this month it was a narrow defeat to Singapore, and an exhilarating defence of the title.
“The final debate was very close for sure, with all of the judges only deciding on a 0.5 point margin between the two teams,” he said.
“I think that speaks to the quality of the speakers on both sides of the debate and it is therefore a final that will go down in history for many years to come.”
Whether it’s the threat of climate change or the free speech versus right-wing populism, the generations ahead will have much to talk about.
Saying he was “transitioning away from debating”, Mr Wilks said it had honed his public speaking — and that he hoped to become an advocate for young people to join the debate.
“Whilst debates appear to be a purely academic exercise, in reality it is anything but,” he explained.
“Far more important is bringing the audience on side and using appeals to reason and intuition to seem like the team more in touch with the audience and everyday people. At the end of the day, debates are won through persuasion, and that has to be held at the forefront of your mind for the duration of the round.”
Mr Wilks is headed to study Chinese language and literature in Tsinghua University, Beijing, courtesy of a Confucius Scholarship. His debating experience in the last five years has trained him in “problem solving, breaking down issues, and figuring out the best solution”.
“My position right now as allegedly the best speaker in the world should put me in good stead to give back to the community in Bermuda and the world,” he added.
Ranking 17th at last year’s championships, Mr Wilks has come a long way — but is mulling a future that could lie in reinsurance back home, or consultancy.
Either way, he intends to advocate for the art of debate.
The other members of the team in Bali were Edward Bracey, a veteran of the Stuttgart championships; Tara Sallis, Hannah Taylor and Arthur James.
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