To be or not to be?

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To be or not to be? That is the question any individual must ask when it comes to being presiding officer for student congress. Congress was one of those events I loved and hated at the same time. I loved the political nature of it, but loathed the lack of order and the fact that ninety percent of control was in the hands of biased students. But with this love-hate relationship came the decision of whether or not to fight for the center of the room. Personally, I think the office of presiding officer is something to avoid. But, after making my own argument, you decide for yourself.

To a novice competitor in congress (both house and senate), it seems to be a no-brainer that one would want to be the presiding officer. First, you control the Congress and get the maximum face time in front of students and judges. Secondly, the chance to fail is minimal if you know the rules. Finally, your chance to make the board is very high as long as you dont screw up miserably. So why would I argue against this position?

Well, for starters, taking the center of attention can backfire dramatically. If you are tired or if you mess up one or two rules, this is very noticeable since you set the tone of timing for the entire session. If you arent in the mood to stay focused on minor details relentlessly for 3 hours, I would avoid this position. Also, many students see this as an easy position and look down on those who are presiding officers. They see it as a copout for lack of speaking ability and this can hurt you when it comes to votes. Lastly, you take one major risk by being the presiding officer. Your chance of finishing in the top two is completely contingent on the room lacking good speakers. From my experience, the presiding officer never faced too much trouble making the board. The problem arose when it came to voting. Competitors always seemed to fight for speakers over the presiding officer and at the end of the day, placing in the top two is all that matters, especially at a national qualifier.

With that said, you may disagree. I think speaking allows you to not only target your strengths, but you also get down time to think about questions and perhaps even daydream. (yes, we all do it). Consider these thoughts next time you enter a room to compete in Congress. It could make all the difference.

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