As an undergraduate debater in college I found the practice of debate to be so abrasive and challenging to my faith in God, that I felt called to become a professor and coach in the field of argumentation and debate. My students continue to inspire and challenge me.
The most profound teaching challenge I ever faced was a group of Holocaust survivors at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in the summers of 2006 and 2007. I worked to equip them to better tell their incredible stories in a series of public speaking workshops. Those workshops were designed by one of my students who had an incredible vision for increasing the number of live survivor testimonies that could meet the American public.
Since that project, I work daily to equip all individuals to have their voice and work with so many different individuals– city employees, political dissidents from Burma and North Korea, engineers, junior high students and college students. Students continually surprise me with their great ideas and arguments that I get to hear almost every week.
My wife and three daughters fill my life with joy and motivation. They help me see how to better fulfill that basic purpose we all have of loving one another. I try to see in all people the value I attach to my own children. For me, this is accepting that all people are made in God’s image and worthy of love. For me, love is simply meeting another person’s needs.
I believe every person needs to discover and find their own voice. My work as a speech and debate coach and professor of communication allows me to love people by meeting their need for the confidence of their voice. I get to see the result of that work so readily that I genuinely enjoy my work everyday.
I am especially delighted to see dozens of my students become communication professors, speech coaches, and debate coaches. I can see how God has extended my impact globally through a long chain of students who equip others to have their voices.
I do believe Jesus was a teacher and that was central to his character and identity. I think his statement in the book of John about how “the truth will set you free” is properly seen as the motto of so many universities. I think his teaching of the truth was distinct because human teaching of other truths tends to lead to violence and the decline of freedom.
Despite the challenges of being a Christian in academia, I witness blessings to my work on a regular and constant basis that encourages me in my work as a professor.