There’s No Rebuttal In This Debate

Senior To Study Physics at Princeton


Photo by Isaiah Prophet

Senior Kellen Cao has enjoyed his time debating for CPHS and is gearing up for his college career at Princeton. He said he intends on continuing his piano career and combine his passions into something beautiful. “When I was first waiting for my decisions over the break, I wasn’t sure If I was going to have tears of joy or sadness,” Cao said. “So let’s just say I was more than excited to find out the news [about Princeton]. Stem is an area of my life that I really appreciate and is one of my passions. but no matter what I do, I hope to integrate music into it as well.”

Isaiah Prophet, Reporter

 He wraps his papers and begins to speak, carefully meticulating words into notes to be played against his opponent. He had practiced this duel at home with his piano thousands of times, but now he was bringing it to the stand. Smart enough in debate to defend someone in court, or play your favorite song on the radio perfectly on the piano.

Cao has been praised by his Parents and Debate teacher Dawn Azbill for his prowess during his time on the debate team, as well as his proficiency with the piano. But it was his physics skills that opened the doors to Princeton, where he will be attending college. 

“The best way to predict the future is too create it,” senior Kellen Cao said. “I look forward to studying at Princeton for the next four years, while admittedly I was a bit intimidated by the idea at first. But, I think it was all of my friends and teachers who have supported me through the tumultuous years that helped make that intimidation fade away.”

Cao said he joined the debate team during sixth grade to build his speech skills. He made the varsity debate team his sophomore year and competed at several regional meets across Texas.

“At the time I knew I wasn’t very good at public speaking,” Cao said. “So when I found out that we were going to have to go to a debate meet, or rather a dozen of them, I was sort of surprised. But honestly debate has taught me so much that is a part of my character now. From my speaking ability to my performing confidence on the piano, it was really necessary for me to be able to succeed in other areas of my life.”

Taking note of some things that help him stay level when he is up on the floor delivering his speeches is what Cao believes has allowed him to become salutatorian. Tips that have also spilled over into other aspects of his life, according to Cao.

“Of course, debating in and of itself is where you have to communicate both with your opponent and with the judges,” Cao said. “So with debate, something really important that comes to me is that you’re always going to have to make your logic very clear. You have to make what you’re saying very noticeable and understandable so that your opponent understands and the judge understands. That way, if they assume something about your case, you can always come back and confirm that you keep in mind both your perspective and how your logic appears to others.”

Debate has taught me so much that is a part of my character now. From my speaking ability to my performing confidence on the piano, it was really necessary for me to be able to succeed in other areas of my life.”

— Kellen Cao

Although Cao hung up his coat for debate this year, he spent his time instead reigniting and developing his passion for music. Piano is a skill that he has been nurturing on and off since he was a child, but has recently been inspired to pick up that skill once again. 

“Piano has always been an integral part of my life,” Cao said. “When I’m playing, I feel that I can truly relax and let the notes come to me. It’s taken quite a lot of practice, but now I’m able to truly feel the music as it’s playing which only came with lots and lots of practice.”

Now, he said he intends to take his hobby to new heights, improving new ways for artists and musicians alike to better hear their own playing.

“I did a research project during this school year to expand my knowledge on music,” Cao said. “During the pandemic when I was recording, I found a big inconsistency with my playing and the sound quality. So to combat this, I took one microphone and my piano and I moved the microphone around the set room to find the optimal location to where there would be the least amount of reverb, white noise and background noises. And as I experimented further, I became more interested in translating musical sound waves into digital format and optimizing that sound. Now I’m just trying to figure out all of the kinks too see if this is something that I really want to pursue further.”

With his physics background and Princeton funding, Cao plans to meld his love for music and science to continue his music career and expand on the experiment he’s been trying out, in hopes that it will blossom into something to be used for the future.

“Cedar Park High has taught me a lot about myself and what I’m capable of,” Cao said. “Thinking back on all of the emotions that I felt and even ones that I had never felt before, it was sort of like swimming in water and you realize that the water is taking you with it. but at some point you have to stand strong and let the water flow around you. I think that lesson is what has allowed me to accomplish what I have today.”