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Students Compete in Fourth Form Public Speaking Contest

Sydney Courtmanche won top honors at the seventh annual Fourth Form Public Speaking Contest held April 25.
Her speech, titled “The Pursuit of Happiness,” was centered around her catchphrase “How do I find happiness?” She talked about a three-step guide to better yourself in order to be happy. 
“My favorite part was probably in the final lines of the speech, which stated ‘Look, happiness is not easy. Being in a state of genuine … true happiness, it’s extremely difficult. But before you can enjoy this life you need to take care of yourself first. You need to spend time alone. You need to deal with your emotions. You need to learn how to love who you are.’”
Seventeen finalists competed at the event, held in Werner Centennial Center (WCC). While attendance was required for the Fourth Formers, the crowd also contained various upper formers, faculty advisers, faculty members and parents.
The competition is the culmination of the work Fourth Formers completed in the Speech Writing and Public Speaking course they took during the winter and part of the spring trimesters. Students in the course were asked to write and then deliver two original speeches. The second speech was for the semi-finals from which the finalists emerged.
“The whole process was an amazing experience,” said Sydney, whose speech included leaving the stage and entering the audience. “From working with Mr. Eckerson to performing in the WCC. I was definitely nervous when it came time to leave my script behind and enter the audience, but once I was up there and I saw how engaged the audience was I knew it was going to be OK. All in all I had a great time doing it. There were so many amazing speeches and I am just extremely honored to even be a part of it.”
The finalists were Aniela Apteker, Michael Bianco, Eliza Cabot, Carolyn Cheng, Sydney Courtmanche, Liv Emerson, Wills Erda, Cassie Goundrey, Jonathan Li, Margee Mahoney, Dane Moliterno, Sophia Peterson, Elizabeth Pruellage, Tarapi Pyo, Colby Smith, David Suit and Robert Yalda.
“What is a core memory?” was how Aniela Apteker’s speech started. The title of her talk was “Silence.” “It is about a time when I was younger and I heard true silence for the first time,” she said, adding “it was impactful.” It’s been 10 years since she had felt silence like that, she said.  
She wrote in part: “When I was seven, I went golfing with my dad. We were driving along the golf course in a golf cart with all of our golf gear. I remember he stopped the cart, as a sign of respect for those golfers who were getting ready to hit the ball near us. Those few milliseconds between the time when the cart stopped, and before the ball was hit, I experienced something I had never experienced before. Silence. No one was talking. No crickets were chirping. No wind was howling. Complete. And utter. Silence. Now, whenever I think of the word silence, I think of that experience.”
As for how she prepared and the experience in general, she said: “I spent a lot of time practicing my speech and trying to pace myself. I am a very fast speaker so I was nervous that when I got on the stage I would forget all the practicing I did and speed through my speech. I was more nervous when I was waiting for my turn and watching all of my peers go than when I was actually standing onstage. I really loved it and felt that my nervousness disappeared as soon as I started speaking which was surprising for me.”
“Phone chargers and Nuclear Posthumanism” was the title of Jonathan Li’s talk. In part he said: “Nuclear exploration is risky, most explorations are risky, but in the end everything is risky. We have grown so afraid of the foreign that we forgot to consider the fact that, in the human condition itself, everything was once foreign.”
As for the experience he said: “Getting on the stage sometimes gives me, for some reason, the confidence to do certain improvs from my pre-written speech, to have fun in the moment and give a speech that goes beyond the script.”
Tarapi Pyo’s speech was titled “Feminism — Men-Hating Cult?” She said in part: “What we do have to recognize are men’s inherent privileges that ultimately go hand in hand with the oppression of women. With rights, our society’s duty is to uphold our responsibilities of equality. That’s all feminists fight for, equality.”
She said throughout the progression of the public speaking contest, she felt “intimidated by potential negative responses I might receive from behind the closed doors of people who might not like what I was saying, but I felt even more empowered and passionate due to this, knowing that feminism is a truly necessary movement that needs to be recognized by our ever-changing Westminster community.”
The students were judged on confidence and such things as eye contact, modulation, body language, humor, organization, thesis, rhetorical devices and how memorable the speech was.

The evening event began with faculty member Todd Eckerson, who is the lead teacher for Westminster’s Civic Engagement curriculum that includes the Speech Writing and Public Speaking course, welcoming everyone in attendance.
This year’s teaching assistants were Ava Beckford, Margaret Breen, Sung Min Cho, Ella Clofine, Ellie Cramer, Alexa Dailey, Gabby Haughton, Tia MacDonald, Lily Marvin, Catherine Rodrigues, Paige Smith, Marina Steinle, Mather Thompson and Elizabeth Wolf.
Eckerson said: “Without the teaching assistants, we could not really run this course the way we want. Both the teaching assistants and the co-teachers provided a lot of individual help.”
Co-teachers included: Frantz Batoh, Grant Gritzmacher, Betsy Heckman, Tim Joncas, Jess Keough, Stephen Mayfield, Sara Mogck, Bryan Tawney, Andrea Thomas and Rebeccah Tuscano-Moss.
A faculty panel of judges, who included Kathleen Devaney, Charlie Griffith, Tim Joncas, Jess Keough, Stephen Mayfield and Bryan Tawney, selected the winner.
“The students delivered an excellent set of speeches!” emphasized Todd.

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