When it comes to public speaking people can be terrified, but imagine doing it for 50 years.
Speech professor Pat Garner has been debating for 50 years of his life. He was a participant of debate teams for seven years and has been a debate coach for 43 years. However, his relationship with the art of debate was not love at first sight.
“I had all of my high school courses planned out, and I wasn’t going to go into debate. I wasn’t interested in it, I wasn’t interested in speech at all,” Garner said.
His dislike for debate gradually changed when he joined the campaign for presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964.
“He inspired me to get up in front of people and talk because that’s not something I do naturally or even wanted to do,” Garner said.
After his campaign for Goldwater, a teacher asked Garner to join the debate team and the rest is history.
Garner now coaches Harding’s debate team and his students appreciate the encouragement whether they win or lose.
“He quickly teaches from the very beginning to not concern yourself with winning, but concern yourself with making yourself a better debater,” junior Grayson Piershale, a member of the debate team, said.
One of the values Garner instills in his students is good sportsmanship and etiquette.
“Sometimes debates can be a little snickety and people can step on each other’s toes and be very sarcastic, but he just loves wit, and humor, and he’s very clever so he teaches us to be very clever without being rude,” sophomore Ryann Money said.
One of the aspects Garner appreciates about debating is how it teaches the participant to view different perspectives.
“It’s a way of seeing the world and analyzing thoughts and things of that nature,” Garner said.
He said the debate team is like a small family that comes together to do what they love most, which is to debate and learn from each other.
“My teammates are the best and I’ve learned a great deal about friendship through them, as corny as that sounds, and a great deal about how people from all over campus can come together and have a really good time,” Money said.
Graduate student Kalvin Graham, who is also an assistant in the communications department and an adjunct in debate, said the debate team plans to celebrate Garner’s 50th year by winning more trophies and by doing what they love.
“I think we’re going to try to win a little bit more,” Graham said. “He got us plenty of trophies during his time as a debater and more as his time as a coach but we’ve got shelf space left in the debate room so we’re going to try to fill that up.”