Yazdan Basir ’23 overcame self-doubt to become a standout speech competitor
By Swati Pandey ’23
“Congratulations dude on winning impromptu, extempore [extemporaneous speech], and taking second place in informative,” came a text from Scott Placke, director of Lafayette’s Forensics Society. As clear as the message was, it painted Yazdan’s face with ambiguity.
“He’s probably joking,” he told his friends.
As a backup who never had to compete on his high school debate team in Pakistan, Yazdan Basir ’23 had stage fright. The thought of speaking for eight minutes on stage was paralyzing.
“I never felt like I was at the level of other participants,” he says. “It has always been my fear that I may not be good enough.”
His recent success shows just how far he’s come as a competitor.
“Apparently, Scott’s not joking. I actually won!” Yazdan told his friends.
In his first performance for Lafayette, which was in extempore, he used what he thought would be an attention-grabbing opening: “In The Dark Knight, when the Batman was asked why he always wears a mask, he said that it was to protect the people around him. This is analogous to the protestors in Hong Kong, who wear a mask to protect their loved ones since they face brutal police crackdown and persecution.”
He giggles slightly as he says, “I was particularly proud of that line, but when I told Scott, he just laughed and said, ‘Never do that again.’”
Having studied in 10 different schools across the United States, Canada, and Pakistan, it didn’t take Yazdan long to realize that he is a part of a global community. What started as part of training at debate club—being informed about and understanding current affairs—has now become an integral part of his routine. So much so that he has been using his position on the ISA board to highlight global affairs in a series called World Events on its Instagram every week.
“I think it is important for everybody to have an understanding and knowledge of what is happening around them,” he says. “I don’t get people who say they aren’t interested in politics. No one can or should be apolitical, especially in times such as these. A lot of people on campus can’t even name Pennsylvania’s two senators. That’s indicative of a larger problem.”
Anybody who knows Yazdan may accurately describe him as an “information monger.” Be it music, politics, or even curse words, he has always been curious about different cultures, and this enthusiasm for learning shines in his interactions.
“It is amazing how I have friends from so many different countries on campus. I never thought I’d get to know someone from Madagascar or Uzbekistan,” he says.
Info and analysis
A double major in computer science and math, Yazdan believes that the quality of his extempore performances lies in his analytical abilities, not theatrics.
“My speeches are quite monotone,” he says, “but I have developed an ability to analyze situations in a much broader yet deeper way, and this has hugely contributed to my success as a speaker.”
The ability to gather information and analyze it has always been important to Yazdan, who enjoyed reading trivia books as a child. He still holds this fascination with learning.
“Every time I look at the night sky, I am awe-struck. I am taken aback when acknowledging that there is so much beyond us, beyond the Earth, and how we haven’t even explored a fraction of it all,” he says.