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Young Achiever: debater Robert touts teamwork

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Focused on the issue: Robert Thomas makes his case at the Bermuda Principles Foundation Fund Conference (Photograph supplied)

The Youth Speaker of the House led his team to triumph in a Youth Parliament debate on the merits of the sugar tax.

Robert Thomas, 16, and his team argued the proposition that the tax was a benefit to Bermuda and would improve public health.

However, the Berkeley Institute student said success in debating was not a matter of winning or losing.

He added: “Winning debates is never important to me because after I finish my speech and after I see all the hard work that my team and I have put in, we’ve already won.”

Robert, from Hamilton Parish, said that his winning strategy was simple: the team had to operate as a unit.

He added: “I always think it’s very important for a team to be cohesive and be on the same page, as well as sticking to your guns and sticking to one major case line.

“One thing we also did that helped us was focus on the major points that were going to win us the debate because we could have talked on about all these irrelevant things.”

Robert said that a team could lose audience support, and the round, if they did not stick to their main point.

He added: “We argued that funds from the taxes could subsidise healthier foods, thus providing local farmers the opportunity to grow more products and have more cash flowing through our local market.

“I think that was the positive twist, that a lot of the audience was looking for, because in all honesty, we kind of thought that the public view opposed our side, but we had this opportunity to take this idea that the government had and mould it into a way that we could deliver it to the public.”

The debate was held as part of the Bermuda Principles Foundation Fund Conference at the Fairmont Southampton on February 23. Robert said that the sugar tax was one of several topics that he took an interest in during his three years of Youth Parliament and four years in debate.

He added: “We debate so many different issues going on in Bermuda and sometimes I’m like ‘whoa, that’s really interesting’ and then I go look at it for myself. “Debating different topics just opens your eyes to all the different things that we don’t normally talk about in everyday conversation.”

Robert said that debating had given him an edge in life by strengthening his confidence and public speaking, as well as his education. He added: “As soon as I started debating, the exposure to so many different educational elements really aided me in school.

“I think everyone should do debate because it just makes you such an elevated person altogether. Not only has it given me more world knowledge and global awareness, it’s also shifted my mindset so that I focus on things that matter.”

Robert said that he now would start to train for the Worlds Schools Debating Championship, where students from all over the world meet to debate.

He added that students are welcome to sit in on meetings of the Youth Parliament. “All they have to do is show up at the House of Assembly at 4.30 on Wednesdays and we’ll get them started from there,” he said.

Growing confidence: Young Speaker of the House Robert Thomas Jr (Photograph supplied)