Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Middle School Speech Contest

In 1948 The Modern Woodmen of America, which was founded in 1883, began sponsoring an oratory and speech contest in schools. The purpose of the contest was to offer students an opportunity to develop skills in clear thinking and public speaking. By the year 2005, over 90,000 students were participating in the event yearly.

This afternoon I served as a judge in the local contest at a middle school in our county. The topic for this year was "A Great American Leader." We heard 11 contestants speak for 3-5 minutes each to tell why the person they chose qualifies as a "great American leader." The persons chosen by these young people included Wilbur and Orville Wright, Sacajawea, Ray Charles, Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, and George Washington. Each young speaker had worked hard to present an interesting, informative, and convincing speech. Each one took the opportunity to improve his/her skills in English usage and public speaking. Each student who participated gained, no doubt, a boost in self-esteem as she/he completed this difficult task. So, in a very true sense, they were all winners. All participants received certificates, and the three top local winners received medals. The winner's name will be engraved on a school plaque as well. The other judge and I had a very difficult time narrowing the field and choosing just the three top speeches. The local winner will compete next month in the district competition, and the district winner will advance to the state competition.

Eons ago this contest was commonly conducted in High Schools instead of in Middle Schools and was referred to as an "oratory contest." During that long-ago time period, I was one of the student contestants. I won't even mention the decade in which I was the local and district winner and placed 4th in the state competition. That was a long time ago, but I enjoyed reminiscing about it as I participated in this contest again today in a different capacity.

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