Revere freshman qualifies for national debate tournament

by Sheldon Ocker

David Burnett calls Anish Chandran “special.’’

Burnett is an assistant coach for the Revere High School speech and debate team, specializing in Congressional Debate. That is also Chandran’s chosen area of competitive expertise, which makes Burnett his personal coach.

“What makes Anish special is that he has a terrific combination of a really positive team-first attitude combined with a tremendous individual work ethic,’’ he said. “That’s really rare in a young student. Oftentimes, it takes kids two or three years to develop that personal drive, and Anish [already] has an A-plus work ethic.’’

Chandran just finished his freshman year at Revere, yet he qualified for the National Speech and Debate Association Tournament in Louisville, Ky. in mid-June.

“I would say that roughly 10-15% of the people at the national tournament are freshmen,’’ Burnett said. “It’s very, very difficult to qualify, and even more so for a freshman. … So we are very proud of him.’’

Chandran said he’s been debating since he was in sixth grade, always in Congressional, whose competitors make brief speeches on the kinds of issues that senators and congressmen deal with in real legislative bodies. After each speech, there are questions – at times pointed – to the speakers, who are expected to defend their positions.

“I would say the [national tournament] is like watching C-Span all day but a little more exciting,’’ Burnett said. “It runs for two, four-hour sessions. Anish will deliver multiple speeches and answer questions. He has to be mentally active for eight hours each of those days.’’

After two eight-hour days, approximately one-third of the debaters will continue to the semifinals and the field will be cut further for the finals.

Debate is only one of Chandran’s school activities. During the 2021-22 school year, he was a member of the junior varsity soccer team and the tennis team, where he was an alternate and played in a few varsity matches.

Chandran also joined several clubs at Revere, notably Students Demand Action, whose members focus on raising awareness about serious issues, and Diversify Our Narrative, which canvasses libraries to ensure that minority authors are represented.

Why did he choose debate?

“I saw my sister doing it,’’ Chandran said. “I saw her practice before her national tournament, and it was kind of interesting to me, so I tried it. I did somewhat well compared to other people.’’

A year ago as an eighth-grader, Chandran captured the state middle school championship in Congressional debate. His sister, Sanchita, won this year’s state high school championship in the same category and was selected as an All-American. Sanchita graduated from Revere this spring.

“We were put against each other in a couple tournaments this year,’’ Anish said. “Of course, she beat me.’’

Sanchita is headed for the University of North Carolina in the fall. Anish isn’t close to deciding where he will go to college, but he has plenty of time to figure it out. One thing he does not plan to do is make politics his career.

“Probably not, to be honest,’’ he said. ∞