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Great Debates

Waiting to see whether he made it into the quarterfinal round of the last speech and debate tournament of his high-school career, Havre senior Dan Marino, 17, exuded the friendly confidence of someone who argues for fun and extracurricular accolades.

“This has been my best year ever,” said Marino, who recently took fourth statewide and hoped to improve his ranking at last weekend’s National Forensics League qualifying tournament, which could earn him a shot at national competition. Some 300 students from 21 schools shared his goal, and more than 800 volunteer Missoula judges helped winnow the winners.

Sentinel High School’s gym was awash in suit-clad teens who formed islands of tables stacked high with bagels, briefcases and bottled water. Students who refused to be stultified by their professional garb punctuated the steady buzz with their outbursts.

When the results were posted, Marino, wearing a slightly oversized tawny suit and matching yellow dress shirt, rushed down the hallway to his next round.

He explained along the way that he planned to use Lao Tzu’s Taoism philosophy to uphold this statement: “Actions of corporations ought to be held to the same moral standards as actions of individuals.” Taoism holds that all beings are inherently good but nevertheless capable of evil actions, he argued, and both corporations and people should be judged by their actions, which can be either moral or immoral.

“I like to use an obscure philosophy with most of my cases,” Marino elaborated.

After the round, as Marino waited anxiously for the verdict back in the gym, he said he’s keen on debate but plans to pursue art in college (“I’m a surrealist,” he said proudly). Still, he expects his debate skills to come in handy, particularly since “a lot of the things that debaters do here—like appealing to Pathos—I see politicians do nationally. I try to appeal mostly to Logos.”

When he failed to move on to the semifinals, placing seventh, Marino briefly showed disappointed wrinkles on his forehead and shoved his hands into his pockets. But to the opponent who bested him, Marino was all Logos and no Pathos, saying simply, “You made it.”

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