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Making her case

Kristine Ramsbottom was nine when she set about convincing her parents to get a dog.

It took about a year of persistent negotiation and it ended in victory after the Langley girl clinched her case by pointing out a puppy would help her overcome her fear of animals.

Shelby, the Shelty cross, arrived soon after. And the young Kristine did indeed overcome her nervousness around dogs.

Now 18, Ramsbottom’s talent for persuasion has won her a spot on the Canadian team at the 2011 World Public Speaking competition in Brisbane, Australia next month (April 2-8)

It will be the second trip to the international event for Ramsbottom, a senior at Southridge school in South Surrey. She placed fifth in her category at the 2010 competition held in Lithuania.

Each year, competitors are expected to develop all-new material that is fresh, meaning a topic or issue that hasn’t been raised before.

It takes about a year to develop, write and refine new material, Ramsbottom estimates.

Presentations run around 10 minutes, and must be memorized. Since she was 17, Ramsbottom has maintained a subscription to the prestigious Economist newsmagazine to stay informed about potential topics.

The first time she ever gave a speech about an issue, Ramsbottom was in kindergarten, and her topic was why Pandas were her favorite animal (they reminded her of Winnie-the-Pooh).

She was comfortable making her case before an audience, and a desire to get better at it led her to the debate club at Southridge, and from there to competitive public speaking.

This year, she is talking about the use of child slaves to harvest cocoa beans in the West African republic of The Ivory Coast, beans that are used to make the chocolate people consume in richer countries.

She likes to get people to think about their consumer choices, she says, not by shouting and pounding a table, but through reasoned, logical argument.

She is the youngest of two, and she and her mother Manny credit father Neil, a businessman with strong negotiating skills, for Kristine’s ability to make a case.

“My dad is huge on discussion,” Ramsbottom says.

She plans to go to university to become a lawyer.

Ramsbottom was one of 172 competitors from across B.C. who competed at the Law Foundation Cup, the provincial speech and debate championship hosted by Walnut Grove Secondary school on March 4 and 5. She finished fourth overall.

It was the first time the Langley school has hosted the provincial competition

“It was a huge endeavor” said teacher Tim Bonnar, one of the tournament organizers.

There were as many as 43 debates going on simultaneously on Saturday.

Four members of the Walnut Grove debate and speech club that Bonnar coaches were among them.

Walnut Grove Grade 10 student Craig Andrews placed ninth among 60 competitors, while Andrews and debate partner Uyseok Lee placed 11th in team competitions.

Andrews has been invited to attend a qualifying tournament for a place on the national debate team.

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