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Ted Turner, champion debater

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in Leaders & Managers

As a high school junior, future media magnate Ted Turner led the debate team to its first state championship in 30 years, and he did it by finding a unique angle.

Turner’s team chose to defend the statement: “Government subsidies should be granted according to need to high school students who qualify for additional training.” Most people would, and did, read the statement as an argument for aiding students with financial need. But Turner saw another interpretation: that the government should decide whether to grant subsidies based on the government’s need, not students’ need.

Armed with this interpretation, and tapping into America’s 1950s-era fear of losing the arms race to the Soviet Union, Turner’s team argued that the government should provide aid to high-potential students to satisfy our need for scientists and engineers.

Thrown completely off guard, opponents crumbled. Turner’s team won.

Lesson: Never assume there’s only one way to look at a problem.

--Adapted from Call Me Ted, Ted Turner, Grand Central Publishing.

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