Compassionate peacemakers prepare for oratorical contest

Compassionate peacemakers prepare for oratorical contest

By Elizabeth Franks-North, Contributing Writer

Goshen College students are preparing to reinforce the school’s core value of peacemaking through the tradition of speech making.

This Tuesday, five students will compete in the C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest, organized by the communication department, to share topics related to various forms of peace. One contestant will move on to the bi-national competition.

“This contest allows students to articulate being a compassionate peacemaker,” said Pat Lehman, professor of communication and contest coordinator, “and it is powerful to see students improving their speaking skills.”

Each contestant will present an 8-10 minute speech that is 1200 words or less and that pertains to the theme of peace and justice. They will be judged on originality, integration of topic to a peace position and verbal and physical delivery.

Abby Deaton, a sophomore communications and psychology major, will be speaking on making peace with soldiers. She explained, “It is about how we can serve veterans as peacemakers.” Deaton became interested in this topic because her father works at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Indianapolis.

Jeffrey Moore, a senior communications and Bible and religion double major, will be speaking on tribalitis: curing the disease of polarization. Marcelle Al-Zoughbi, a senior history education and TESOL major, will argue to stop investing in Palestine’s oppression.

Jacob Putnam, a sophomore sociology and Spanish double major, will be speaking on Laos’ history of war: the need for UXO removal. And Mara Weaver, a senior history secondary education major, will be speaking on the price of incarceration: private prisons in the U.S.

“The contest gives the students an opportunity to voice what they are passionate about and excel at pubic speaking,” said Lehman.

Jair Hernandez, a previous contestant and senior public relations major, is helping coordinate the event and coaching the students as they prepare. Hernandez is helping the students present their speech with passion and accuracy.

Deaton said, “Public speaking is an art form that lets you learn how to craft a speech that is meaningful and that can touch someone. It also gives you a sense of confidence because you can learn how to use words effectively.”

This contest is a 100-year spoken word and peace tradition and, as of 1974, it has been known by its current name when the C. Henry Smith Trust began to support it financially.

“These students are walking in the footsteps of some pretty awesome people,” said Lehman, when commenting on the long-standing tradition and previous contestants. “A 100 year old tradition is pretty powerful.”

The contestants already competed in a preliminary round where they presented individually and were given advice from the judges on how to improve their speeches. Two community members and one faculty member will judge the contest and award cash prizes. The winner of the contest will move on to the bi-national contest, judged by members of the Mennonite Central Committee in Pennsylvania. The bi-national contest includes various contestants from other Anabaptist colleges in the United States and Canada.

Deaton said, “I like feeling like what I have to say matters and it is my way to make a difference and influence other people.”

Lehman added, “If we talk about peace, we are making it visible and we need to make the tradition of peace visible.” After all, this contest is about more than speaking–its core is peace and justice.

This event will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 7 p.m. in the Umble Center.

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