Four students will speak on themes of peace and justice at the 2022 C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest on Tuesday, Feb. 22.  

The C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest is an opportunity for Goshen College students to deliver an 8-10 minute speech exploring a policy or issue related to the topic of peace. The contest is funded by the trust of C. Henry Smith, a 20th century Mennonite historian and GC professor. 

The speakers applied for the competition at the end of last semester and completed an initial round of auditions in January. 

The four finalists in this year’s contest are: Bryan Hernandez Rodriguez, a junior computer science and sustainability studies major from Goshen; Caleb Gingerich, a junior history and writing major from Kalona, Iowa; Ebtihal Abdelaziz, a senior mathematics and physics major from Cairo, Egypt; and Greta Lapp Klassen, a junior English major from Goshen. 

Hernandez Rodriguez chose his topic, “La Jaula de Oro (The Golden Cage): The Tale of the Young Migrant Factory Worker,” in order to elevate the “unheard voices in the factories of Indiana.”  

“The immigrant worker perspective is one that’s so close to our campus, yet it’s rarely talked about or people are unaware of it entirely,” Hernandez said. “Having experienced what the life of an immigrant factory worker is like, it was a no-brainer for me to be the voice for them and tell their story.”

Gingerich’s passion for his topic, “Rejecting Whitewashed History: A Call for Reparations,” stems from his love of storytelling and a desire to unearth stories that have been omitted from the historical narrative.

“As I continue to learn stories about European colonization and settlement of the Americas, it is clear to me that so much of that history has been swept under the rug,” Gingerich said. “I think that it is about time that we approach that history honestly because until we do, structural violence targeting Indigenous peoples will continue to go unchallenged.”

Abdelaziz chose her topic, “Alone in Space, Connected by Science,” in order to share her view of science as something that brings people together. 

“When (some) people think about scientists, they think about somebody in a lab doing experiments alone, but that’s not the way I view science,” the senior said.  “The way I see science is as a real collaborative environment where you can’t do anything alone. Science brings so many people together from all over the world.” 

Lapp Klassen began writing her speech, “Humanizing Our World, One Walkway at a Time,” after biking across the country over the summer as part of a “climate ride” hosted by the Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions (CSCS). Throughout her experience, she noticed the ways in which “our world is built for cars and not pedestrians.” 

“I started doing more research and learning about pedestrian advocacy through social media,” Lapp Klassen said, “and I resonated with the work they were doing. I have always been interested in architecture and urban design, so this topic felt like a natural extension of those interests.”

Each of the contestants prepared for the competition by meeting with speech coach Adrienne Nesbitt and a faculty mentor.

“I’m definitely a little nervous,” said Gingerich. “I’ve never spoken in a competitive environment, and I haven’t really spoken in front of a crowd since high school.”

The event will take place at 7 p.m. in the Umble Center. Convocation credit will be available for students, and there will be a livestream for those unable to attend in person.