By Danielle Dodder
“You know, it’s typically advised (by mom), that when you go to a party, you don’t talk about religion or politics, but not us!” Wade Keller describes Point Counterpoint, the thought-provoking club he organized last season that is moving into a strong second year. “This club will take all topics.”
Posting political propaganda and smart-aleck quips to your Facebook timeline or Twitter feed is a terrifically satisfying form of passive-aggressive self-expression, but does it really inform or communicate? Keller would probably respectfully disagree. “The art of civilized discourse, and its ability to build bridges over seriously divergent points of view, is becoming a necessary, but endangered, species in today’s world.”
Point Counterpoint was inspired by Keller’s experience in Toastmaster’s, a club that celebrates excellence in speechmaking. But whereas Toastmaster’s focus is on delivery and wit, Point Counterpoint hearkens back to Debate 101, leading anyone with an interest in participating though five minutes of presenting a topic, ten minutes of audience-posed questions, and then either a five minute rebuttal from someone else or a move to a new topic.
Keller is always the unofficial backup ‘instigator,’ but so far he hasn’t had to step in often. “The first time [meeting], I had to get things spurred off.” So he delivered a five-minute speech on politics in George Washington’s time as President, to draw parallels to today. In contrast, the last gathering of 30 participants ran over its allotted hour and half time slot in the gym at the Marco YMCA. “I had to end it and people were still hanging around afterwards, looking for something to argue about, in a friendly way.”
Friendly and respectful are the key words that define the club’s atmosphere, fittingly guided by Keller’s own traditional Southern good manners. He hopes participants will use Point Counterpoint to learn valuable new skills. “It’s easy for timid people to be overrun by other people [in life] and it’s important for them to learn to stand up and speak out.” In contrast, Keller also observes that we all know the personality type that gets completely bent out of shape and overly emotional over something it can’t agree with. “Some people need to learn to express, and hear, strong points without getting mad and angry.”
On a lighter note, Keller believes the club will appeal to the many retirees who are looking for an intellectual outlet, something the golf course or the fishing boat won’t provide. “Point Counterpoint can be a nice hobby, a fun thing.”
Point Counterpoint’s next gathering is March 7th at the Marco Island YMCA in the gym, from 1:30 to 3:30 PM. For information or to sign up for the newsletter, contact Wade Keller at 239-389-2525.