Each year, students are invited to participate in the C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest. This year’s finalists have been announced and are preparing for their presentations.Participants deliver an eight to 10-minute speech on a topic of their choice relating to peace in some context, whether war and violence, peacemaking strategies or current events. The addresses are judged on originality as well as the integration of the topic and a peace position.
Participants compete for a cash prize alongside the chance to enter the U.S. and Canada oratorical contest. Speech contests have been a part of Goshen College’s history since the early 1900s.
Pat Lehman, professor of communication, was one of the pre-contest judges for this year’s contest. For her, this type of contest is important because “part of creating a strong democracy as well as supporting human rights for all is the opportunity to speak about issues which affect all of us.”
This year’s five speakers are dealing with topics that are international and intercultural.
“The opportunity to hear these topics on a campus with the core value of global citizenship is important for our community,” said Lehman.
Yazan Meqbil is one of the five finalists. His speech is entitled “Beyond Occupation of Mind and Body.”
“I will talk about my experience as a Palestinian living under the Israeli military occupation,” said Meqbil. “[The contest] will give me the chance to speak up and deliver my message.”
His speech also includes difficulties he faces as a Palestinian traveling and what he has been through in the recent months in the U.S.
Meqbil decided to enter the contest when one of his professors urged him to audition. When he found out more about the contest he was excited to be a part of it.
“I think the contest provides a great opportunity for people to hear from different students who come from different cultures, backgrounds, religious affiliation and nationalities,” said Meqbil.
Dona Park, a senior, was also one of the finalists this year. She was the contest winner in the 2014-15 contest when she spoke on the reality regarding what was happening in North and South Korea.
“I thought it would be important to take the opportunity on a subject I have been advocating for since the beginning of my life and college career,” said Park.
She is choosing to keep her speech a secret but said that it is an important story that everyone can tell and share with one another.
“It is an important event where one listens and connects, to be stretched in unexpected ways,” said Park. “What better way to meet new people around you and connect with the speakers?”
Park has learned that her words are a necessity in the highly polarized political environment present in the 21st century.
“I realized from the last time I presented, people were attentively listening to me,” said Park. “I felt the power to relay information and realized how precious that moment was and wanted to experience and share my thoughts again.”
Alma Flores is another finalist and has been participating in the contest for the last four years. Her speech is about 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa, Mexico.
“This speech is a way to remember them and the work their parents have done all over the world to bring awareness of their disappearance,” said Flores.
Her hope is that the speech honors the students’ legacy and their struggle to bring justice to the indigenous communities across Mexico.
“I wanted to raise my voice about an issue very close to my heart from back home,” said Flores. “Even though it is seen as a contest, it is more a way for us to raise our voices against injustices in the world. Sharing these stories is not only about making a presentation but being able to share it in a way in which the audience can connect with the stories.”
Hitesh Sharma, one of the finalists, said he loves public speaking, especially about justice and peace. His speech will be about sex trafficking and underage prostitution in South Asia with a focus in Nepal and the challenges of feminism outside the borders of the US.
“This year is very special because all the finalists are international students,” said Sharma. “Here at Goshen we believe in global citizenship and intercultural exchange. In a supposedly globalized world, it is better to get acquainted [with] how the world looks outside [the U.S].”
The other finalist was Noemi Salvador, a senior.
The contest will be taking place Feb. 21 at 7:30 p.m. in the Umble Center.