Equal Rights, Gun Control, Purchase Restrictions——Over 20 North Carolina Asian American Teenagers Spiritedly Debate In Recent Summit

Joshua Chen, Samuel Zhong

Both authors are from Panther Creek High School, Cary, NC, and contributed equally to this report. This article has been adapted from the previous report on this event in Chinese, which was authored by Changzi Mao and Joshua Chen.

With the second round of the gun control debate, the proponents, Emma Zhao and Michelle Li, and the opponents, Andrew Xu and Matthew Gao, begin the crossfire.

The numerous tragedies caused by the prevalence of gun violence in the United States are the main argument for the benefits of gun control. Meanwhile, the opposition perceives gun control to have little impact due to most criminals acquiring weapons illegally. With both sides utilizing a substantial amount of statistics and pathos, the heated crossfire received much laughter and applause from the audience.

Contestants Michelle Li, Emma Zhao, Andrew Xu, and Matthew Gao in the gun control debate

On August 19, 2023, the North Carolina House Representative Ya Liu, the United Chinese Americans (UCA), the North Carolina branch of the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association (APAPA), and North Carolina Asian Americans Together (NCAAT) hosted the 2023 North Carolina Youth Civic Engagement & Leadership Summit with 22 participants in total. This event also hosted several animated debates and presentations, including affirmative action, gun control, and alien land laws.

Each of the participating debaters arrived prepared with impactful speeches, engaging presentations, and countless pieces of evidence to support their arguments. 

After the award ceremony, congresswoman Deborah Ross expressed how impressed she was with the debates and reflected upon her childhood and her mother’s influence on her current self. Since Mrs. Ross was young, she has participated in politics and emphasized the values she upholds in Congress through various committees.

Deborah Ross also praised Ya Liu for ensuring that Asians are represented in government. Ya Liu thanked all the students, politicians, and parents for participating in the summit and highlighted the importance of besting everyone’s fear of public speaking. “Every time I attend various activities to speak, even I get nervous,” Ya Liu informs the audience.

After careful consideration by the judges, the winners of the various awards in the Youth Civic Engagement & Leadership Summit are:

Outstanding Leadership Award:

Linda Li (East Chapel Hill High School)

Best Teamwork Award:

Joshua Chen & Samuel Zhong (Panther Creek High School)

Best Speaker Award:

Devdatt (Green Hope High School)

Best Speaker Award:

Matthew Gao (Durham Academy)

Best Original Essay Award:

Colin Xu (Green Hope High School)

Best Rebuttal Award:

Daniel Chen (Cary Academy)

Best Use of Evidence Award:

Shayshanth Jayaram (Green Hope High School)

Debating Spirit Award:

Michelle Li (Panther Creek High School)

Judges’ Choice Award:

Trente Xian Newman (The Math and Science Academy of Apex)

Emma Zhao (Green Hope High School)

Jackie Zhou (St. David’s School)

Excellence Award:

Jason Lu (East Chapel Hill High School)

Emerson Zhou (East Chapel Hill High School)

Christopher Lin (Green Hope High School)

Andrew Xu (East Chapel Hill High School)

Joyce Li (Martin Middle School)

Stella Zhu (East Chapel Hill High School)

George Sun (Green Hope High School)

A group photo of Congresswoman Deborah Ross, Ya Liu, the judges, and the participants.

One of the judges, Zheyuan Jin, commented that students appear to be highly interested in affirmative action, with five of the eleven winners in the competition being from this topic. All participants demonstrated commitment and passion by citing the recent Supreme Court case, statistics, and moral theories. Ultimately, Joshua Chen and Samuel Zhong won the best teamwork award. Additionally, two out of three affirmative action presenters were awarded the Judge’s Choice Award, Trente Xian-Newman and Jackie Zhou. At the same time, Shayshanth Jayaram displayed a grasp of these admission issues and a comprehensive understanding of affirmative action in other working life.

Mr. Jin also hoped that debaters would focus on more feasible ideas, as much of the arguments presented had been somewhat theoretical with major drawbacks to some. His final wish was that every contestant would become more courageous and precise when speaking in future debate rounds now that they had more experience.

Mr. Lin Wang, a judge who drove more than 3 hours from Columbia, South Carolina, believes the experience was thrilling. He stated, “The competition today was particularly meaningful. It was the first time I’ve seen so many young Asian-American students come together to debate on topics that we all encounter firsthand. Each student had unique insights and various debating techniques; however, everyone was full of energy and vigor. Looking forward into the future, I see more and more North Carolina politicians getting involved in these same topics. I see mayors, state legislators, judges, and Congress members all helping to support the development of the community and state, especially the Asian-American community.

From Winston-Salem, another judge and educator, Ms. Junlan Li said, “Today the debate was very exciting. What was most impressive was how much research the contestants and presenters had done: they compiled large amounts of data and statistics to back up their arguments. This event also helped students learn more about social issues in their community, exercising their public speaking skills and better shaping their civic character. I hope that these students can participate in more of these kinds of activities in the future and continue to accumulate more experience in debate and public speaking, because as a member of the Asian community, we really need more brave people willing to speak up.”

Before the debate started, state legislators, a judge on the NC Court of Appeals, the Wake County District Attorney, a Wake County commissioner, the Morrisville City Mayor, a Cary Town Councilwoman, and two Apex Town Councilmen were present to answer the host, Linda Li, as she introduced herself, asked questions, and shared challenges faced in work/life.

The invited politicians share their views and experiences.

Jian Chen from the United Chinese American Association (UCA), Chaowei Zhu and Jianquan Li from the Carolina Branch of the Asian Pacific American Public Affairs Association (APAPA), the two leaders of the North Carolina Asian American Alliance (NCAAT), and Kun Yang from the North Carolina Youth Department of the Union, have all helped coordinate and deliver the event.

(from left ): UCA WAVES Project Director Lily Chen, NC State Representative Maria Cervania, NC State Representative Ya Liu

Michelle Li’s mother, Jianhui Wu, Joshua Chen’s mother, Fengming Chen, Christopher Lin’s father, Dong Lin, along with other parents have held strong support for the debaters. Ms. Jianhui Wu explained how the children researched, refined opinions, and discussed with their teammates before the debates occurred. As a parent, she was not involved in the debate; however, she says, “Michelle has participated in public speaking classes before, but this is her first time debating in a public setting. I believe this event gives students, along with Michelle, lots of practice as well as experience for the future.”

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