There are cogent reasons she stomped him.
how did this 14-year-old succeed? She did some very big things right.
1. She didn’t let O’Leary change the debate.
More than once in the interview, O’Leary pushed to expose Parent as ignorant and anti-science. The savvy 14-year-old would have none of it. She was laser-focused on her issue of labeling GMO food and brought her answers back to that repeatedly.
2. She refused to engage in hypotheticals.
O’Leary used some hypothetical situations, including one in which nutrient-enriched rice, called “golden rice,” was being fed to starving communities around the world. When he asked what she would say to malnourished children about GMOs, Parent was ready. Rather than play into O’Leary’s hypothetical example, she used facts about the rice and explained why it wasn’t effective.
3. She ignored his insults.
O’Leary more than once alluded to Parent’s youth and even accused her of being disingenuous. A particularly low point for O’Leary was when he accused Parent of becoming a “shill” for groups that want to use her, saying, “You’re young, you’re articulate, you’re getting lots of media, and I’m happy for you on that. But I’m trying to figure out whether you really deep down believe this.” Even with that, Parent never sank to O’Leary’s level in the debate.
4. She knew what she was walking into.
Parent was obviously familiar with O’Leary, but she did more than just come prepared for a spirited debate. She did her homework. At one point, O’Leary brought up a documentary his daughter had produced about the GMO debate. Parent had already seen it and offered to clarify some of the points made in the film.
5. She brought on the challenge.
Parent smartly realized that her credibility would soar if she could effectively debate the hostile O’Leary. She was right.