In the process, Valley
High School junior JJ Kapur was named the 2017 Original Oratory Champion
at the Tournament of Champions, said to be the most
prestigious high school speech and debate competition in the US.
Kapur’s victory caps off a string of high profile awards, including
first-place finishes at the Emory University, Minneapple and Harvard
University tournaments. Following a prompt to compose and deliver a
persuasive speech addressing a social issue, Kapur spoke on his
experience as a Sikh-American youth.
In the finals, he spoke of the ‘story telling’ that we all get sucked
“I found that the story of Bollywood was just
that, a story….And this disconnect between story and reality extends far
beyond India’s border. We are a story telling society. We each seek to
provide our scattered and confusing experiences with a sense of
coherence, by arranging the episodes of our lives into stories. but our
problem arises when our complex realities does not match the narrative.”
He gives an example of the narrative surrounding Mohandas Karamchand
Gandhi, the Indian independence leader widely revered for his use of
nonviolent civil disobedience.
But Kapur punctures the ‘saintly’ narrative around the leader who died
“The Gandhi narrative excludes the uncomfortable fact that Gandhi
sexually assaulted women, espoused anti-blackness and ignored India’s
“The Gandhi narrative is so powerful that when I related these details
to the members of my own family, they (paused for effect) flipped
(another pause) out,” he tells the crowd before him.
How did his own family responded? “Are you smoking weed? Gandhi is a
saint. Watch the Ben Kingsley movie and get your story straight.”
He then continues: “Gandhi was important and influential but his story
was complex. And imposing a simplified narrative structure makes his
history a lie. ”
Watch young Kapur talk about the ‘story telling society’ that we all