We are so happy to share this wonderful student's accomplishment. Carter Feenstra, an MODG Junior, competed in speech and debate through the NCFCA league and placed 6th in the nation in June! His father was kind enough to share his video of the speech with us! Click to listen to his speech and read below for some of Carter's comments.

"This past year was my first year to compete in speech and debate through the NCFCA league, which holds competitions for homeschooled and private schooled students to speak publicly in front of judges and audiences. I myself competed in five different speech categories, including debate. However, the speech that I qualified the farthest in was the category of After Dinner Speaking. In this category, students write either a persuasive or informative speech that is ten minutes and meant to be more humorous than standard speeches. My topic of choice was that of masculinity. I qualified to Regionals after my second tournament and then later qualified to Nationals, which was held at Northwestern University in Minnesota. I placed sixth in the Nation at that tournament. Just for perspective, there were about 60 students competing at Nationals in this category, and those are only the students who qualified to the tournament. Now, as the competition season starts back up, I look forward to my second year and hope I can achieve even more in both speech and debate."

Read below for a transcript to the video*

[“] Are you gonna be a man or a boy?! If you’re a boy, get off this team right now and go cry to your momma! This is a place for men! Men are willing to bash their heads together and say that it’s fun, only to get a cheap plastic trophy in the end! Men are strong, hardcore, and reckless!! Aaaarrgh!!![”] I know. It looks and sounds ridiculous, right? However, those were the words implied by my football coach every single practice, all of it being screamed in my face from less than a foot away. I thought he was deranged, but I can’t rightfully say he’s wrong about what portrays a man unless I have the correct answer, so I asked myself, “What does it mean to be a man?” It was this question that compelled me to lead this young men’s retreat for all of you. Today, we’ll cover how society has twisted the view of manliness, God’s intended purpose for men, and how to apply true masculinity to our lives.

As you all know, I consider myself a pretty manly man. I swim competitively, plus I do speech and debate, so need I say more?? Even my fellow debater, Seth, agreed to my manliness and wrote about it in our debate club’s newsletter. He made a ranking of “the manliest dudes in our club”. OBVIOUSLY, I made the list, but my description for why I made the list was explained by Seth: [“] Carter F. is another well-built dude (like Jimmy Wong, but a bit better). He’s tall and also has a pretty good tan. [“] However, I later asked Seth at club what the criteria were for the list of manly men, and he said he had no idea. Seth was kind of useless at that point, so I started to look at how manliness starts; at boyhood.

Most boys, when we’re young, hope to be Superheroes when we grow up. That’s why we run around in a cape and underpants when we’re 5 years old…or sometimes into our late thirties… We want powers like super strength or speed, the ability to fly or leap over tall buildings, and yes, to save the beautiful girl from her ultimate demise and shine that winning smile. (smile and wink) But now, in this day and age, it’s confusing for guys like us to know… what do girls want? What does society expect of us? What type of man should we aspire to be? Of course, it’s confusing! However, I still look forward to being a man – establishing my career, marrying a beautiful woman, buying a home and someday having kids. But what I’m REALLY looking forward to is mastering the art of the dad joke. And I’ve been dabbling a bit, so buckle up. When does a joke become a dad joke exactly? When it becomes APPARENT. There’s no humor quite like it you see.

Now, one aspect of manhood I’m not looking forward to is “toxic masculinity” which is also confusing to some degree. How can masculinity be “toxic?” Dictionary.com defines this as a cultural concept of manliness that glorifies stoicism, strength, and dominance, and that is socially maladaptive or harmful to mental health. This is the kind of “masculinity” displayed by my former football coach. But most young men I think like the idea of growing up to be strong and courageous. You know, a hero. Some if not most guys are competitive about it too; I should know, I have five brothers. We used to have “awesomeness challenges” which were literally just “how many pull ups could you do?” against each other. But seriously, during this retreat, I’m going to cover how we can all be masculine without being toxic.

With that in mind, yes, compared to my mom and three sisters, my brothers and I appear to be more stoic than the females in our family (my mom can go through a whole box of tissues every time she watches Toy Story 3). But none of us want to harm anyone’s mental health…except for maybe my two younger brothers constantly joking about bodily functions... Did you know that if you sneeze and pass gas at the same time your body takes a screenshot? Yep! Mental health successfully destroyed. But, aside from those two, our parents have instilled in us the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and charity, and as we become men, we search for God’s purpose for us through the lens of those virtues.

If you take the “toxic” part away, I still have hope that good Christian men would strive for, and good Christian women would appreciate, the classic values of true masculinity. Strength, for example, comes in handy all the time. Lifting furniture, hanging the pictures, and army carrying younger siblings when they get hurt or just for fun are all jobs left to the men in the house. I even used to carry my grandmother up the stairs too, but we recently installed a chair lift for her. She hates it, however, and says it driving her up the wall. My brother and I have been swimming competitively for nearly ten years so we’ve built up a good deal of strength. I mean, I know I don’t really show it, but my younger brother Clark looks like mini-Dwayne Johnson…with hair! We also help our dad with yardwork, building or fixing things in and around the house, and are enlisted many times by friends and neighbors to be used in the same capacity – I promise it’s not child labor. They tell me it counts for “community service hours.” God gave us our bodies and so it’s good to keep them healthy and strong and to use them to help others. It’s okay to be like David but still look like Goliath if you know what I mean.

Now, dominance is the word I think has the most negative impact in the definition I mentioned before – reminds me of Genie from Aladdin “Ultimate cosmic power… itty bitty living space.” While my dad provides for our family, he and my mom have a true partnership and share the obligations of parenthood. I’m sure like most of your moms would agree, my mom says while my dad is the head of the family, she is the neck and can make the head turn anyway she wants. We have so much to look forward to, don’t we gentlemen? I mean, what was Boaz like before he got married? He was ruthless!

Another stereotypical male feature is to enjoy hunting and fishing, and I honestly love it. I started cleaning all my weapons with tree sap. Some people tell me I’m crazy, but I’m sticking to my guns. I mean, I could literally tell story after story about how big the fish I caught was! It was …. This, no this big! I tell all my fishing stories the way any good Texan should, “Y’all aint gonna believe this…” Anyway, I don’t mind the dirt, the smells, or the filth of cleaning a fish or skinning an animal. I’m comfortable using a knife, bow, and gun, sleeping outdoors, even going days without showering…not saying I have recently though…I even remember the first time my mom took me shopping for my first pair of camo pants, but I couldn’t FIND any. See what I did there?!?

Now football ultimately was not the sport for me, but there were some historically manly traits displayed in football that I do say are worthwhile. Protecting, integrity, competition, and so on and so on. So, what’s a guy to do?! Suppress our God-given abilities and interests so as to not offend anyone? Jesus was a carpenter! Strength, workmanship, tenacity. His earthly father Joseph taught Him these qualities and provided for Jesus and Mary through this trade. So, with God and my own father as my role models, I choose to embrace my masculinity. Ephesians chapter 6, verse 10 says [“] Be strengthened on the Lord. Put on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil…stand, therefore…in all things taking up the shield of faith, with which you may be able to quench all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. [“]

So, how do we apply masculinity to our everyday lives though? One of the best set of “rules” for how to be a good dude in general are laid out in “King Arthur’s Code of Chivalry” from the book King Arthur. They are:

  • To fear God and maintain his Church
  • To protect the weak and defenseless
  • To despise unlawful reward (Don’t take money for performing a good deed - remember it counts as community service)
  • To fight for the welfare of all
  • To shun unfairness, meanness and deceit
  • To keep faith
  • At all times to speak the truth
  • To respect the honor of women

Just as the Ten Commandments are the “rules” to live a life for God, The Codes of Chivalry are the “rules” for godly men to follow. These rules have been lost and it’s time for them to be put into place once again. They say if you see a guy opening a car door for a girl nowadays, either the his girlfriend’s new or his sweet ride is. It’s time for us young men to prove chivalry is not dead but alive and well!

So, in the end, yes; men should strive to be masculine, not in the toxic way, but in the way God calls men to be manly for His good and perfect will. We don’t have to be super ripped and shout like a sergeant to have the world see us as manly. What guys do have to do is be there to protect, serve, and lead our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Following the Code of Chivalry and understanding God’s purpose for men are the guidelines to being truly manly. Now I have to go tell Seth that…. And, maybe, just maybe, by applying this advice to my own life, I may turn out to be that comic book super hero for one special lady…someday.

Cited Sources:

Holy Bible, New Catholic Edition.

Brown, Seth. Manly People? EnGarde Monthly Newsletter article. November.


Green, Roger. King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table. Puffin Classics, UK. 2015.