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Our March spotlight features Kasey Leander, who competed in NCFCA and Stoa with Resolve in Colorado from 2008 to 2012. He graduated from Taylor University in 2016 with a B.A. in Politics, Philosophy and Economics and is now applying his speech and debate skills as an apologist who speaks on intellectual barriers to Christian belief.

Kasey was first introduced to speech and debate through several church friends. As he explained, “My parents basically thought they were so awesome that we needed to give it a shot!” He called his first ever tournament “pure magic” – he rode up to Salt Lake City’s Speak on These Things tournament in a 16-passenger bus and even had some success in debate. But he said the best part was the electric air of the whole thing. “I made friends that I still can’t think about with smiling… We were all running around competing our faces off. In between were milkshake runs, mock debate rounds, waiting for breaks and a huge awesome award ceremony to finish it out. You’re with people who really care about the same stuff as you do. Everyone – not just Resolvers – cheered so loudly for each other at the award ceremony. I felt like I had found my people.”

Kasey described his experience with debate as a sport: pushing oneself to the limit of how much information can be recalled and how quickly, and how well one can entertain the audience. He said his favorite rounds were filled with tons of clash between arguments but ended with genuine respect and friendship. As for speech events, he proclaims, “If you like having fun, do a Duo. If you like telling stories, do a Duo. If you want to experience the crown jewel of STOA speech events, do a Duo. It’s a chance to unleash the creativity within and produce something really unique. It’s the event I had the most competitive success in, but I owe that to my string of truly exceptional Duo partners.“ He recalls his favorite NITOC memory in 2011 at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, CA, “It was unbelievable. In our semi-final round, Benjamin Griffith and I performed our duo in a chapel with a stunning 180 degree ocean view behind us. Not sure if it helped us to have such an incredible backdrop but it was awesome!”

Currently, Kasey is an apologist speaking on intellectual barriers to Christian belief. “Pre-COVID, I travelled a lot to churches, businesses, and universities to engage with people face to face!. During COVID, my job has meant producing a lot more digital media, and doing a lot less travel (which is not always a bad thing!)” When asked why he chose this path, Kasey explained, “The gospel is everything. It’s not just religion: it’s the very fabric of reality. The existence of God is the unifying factor behind why our world makes sense: reconciliation with him is the answer for our deepest longings. Whatever else I ended up doing in life, I knew an education in Christian apologetics would serve as a really good foundation for it.”

Stoa helped Kasey develop the mindset that led him to being an apologist. “Stoa was also one of the first ways I really learned the truth of this proverb: ‘The first to speak in court sounds right— until the cross-examination begins.’ (Prov. 18:17.) That’s literally true in debate and when we’re grappling with doubts about faith, it holds true as well. We need to pursue every perspective to better know the truth. No one should have an unexamined faith in Jesus: how else will we know we’ve counted the cost to be his disciple?”

Kasey made sure to end our interview on a humorous note. When asked for a word of encouragement to fellow alumni, he said this: “Whenever you think life is difficult, just remember the good old days when competitors had to print out thousands of literal, physical extemp articles and store them in massive crates that we dragged to every single tournament we went to. How crazy is that??? In the words of Ben Griffith, ‘We basically just tried to print the entire journalism internet every week and then carry it around with us at tournaments.’”

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