2018 National Championship Article: Lily Corley

Competitors in the NCFCA can change people’s lives and speak God’s words through their speeches. That’s what Lily Corley firmly believes. Here is an article written by the 2017-2018 winner of Original Interpretation, sharing what she has learned from her time in the NCFCA, including some Godly wisdom every competitor should take to heart.

I am a very competitive person, and not long after I started competing, it became my dream to win Nationals. I practiced and practiced, hoping every year that it would happen. I thought if I worked hard enough, became good enough, I would win. Working hard is very important and probably multiplies your chances of success by 1,000,000, but sometimes we set goals for ourselves that are dependent on variables other than our efforts.


In 2017, I had a speech that I was extremely passionate about. I truly felt like God was using it to speak to people. And He was. I thought that I had a good chance of winning the Championship with that speech. Then, the first round of Nationals, for the first time in MONTHS, my speech went over time. 10:41. With the new time penalty in place, I thought it was impossible to break in that event, and I felt like my dream was crushed instantly. That night while I was talking to my mom I said, “I know God takes things away from us sometimes to help us trust Him. But God, why now? Why do you have to ask me to surrender it now?” Over the next twenty four hours, my parents, my friends, and a very encouraging Communications staff member talked with me about my mission in NCFCA. They told me that if God wanted me to break so that more people could hear my speech, I would. Nothing could stop Him. They reminded me that speech and debate is what I do, it is not who I am. I had known since 8th grade that competing was about more than winning, but that became more real to me when I had to accept that I had largely lost control. So I gave my speech in the next two preliminary rounds and prayed that if those were the last two times I presented that speech, God would speak to the judges through it and I wouldn’t be focused on my own desires as I gave it.


Friday came around, and Mrs. Cromer began announcing the breaks. To my amazement, my name was on the list. Later that day, I broke to Semis, and the next day, I competed in Finals and placed 2nd. By that time, I couldn’t be disappointed that I didn’t win, I was just shocked that I made it to finals after all the setbacks. I realized God knew a lot more about the way that tournament was going to turn out than I did. The most important thing that happened to me at that tournament was learning to surrender my dreams to Jesus. Whether or not I was going to break, learning that would have been worth it. Then, God reminded me that His will for my life has ultimate power over my circumstances, and I don’t. I have power over my response. Jesus showed me His strength by doing what I thought was impossible. Now, I’m grateful for that time penalty. Making it to Finals meant so much more to me when I realized I had Him to thank for it, not myself.


Last June (2018), I went to Nationals again and won Original Interpretation with a speech I wrote about my former job at a retirement home and my grandmother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s. I had the “moment of victory” I had always dreamed of, and it was wonderful. But I believe that the year before when I didn’t win was the year that changed my heart the most. Winning doesn’t make you who you are; trusting that your life is in God’s hands makes you who you are.


I would encourage anyone reading this to give your best effort in the pursuit of your passions, but always surrender your gifts to your Heavenly Father. He will bless you more than you can imagine, but it won’t be on your timeline or according to your plan. And that’s a good thing. Competitors, I want to tell you two things: 1.) Don’t give up if you face an obstacle in competition! Breaking after a memory lapse, a penalty, or an awful debate round is possible. You’re not out of the competition until God allows it. 2.) Write the speeches that matter, not just the ones you think the judges will like. Write the speeches that God puts on your heart. Every round is an opportunity to be the mouthpiece through which God speaks to someone’s heart.

Lily Corley (Original Interpretation)

My name is Lily Corley, and I’m a senior in high school. I’ve competed in NCFCA since 8th grade, when some friends suggested I join because of my love for performing arts. My former speech coach, Mrs. Jennifer Vals, taught me how to navigate the first couple years of competition, and I probably would not have made it through my first year without her. My parents have also been such encouraging “judges” for me to practice with, and I’m so grateful for their sacrifices in letting me travel to tournaments and pursue this activity.