Thursday, June 23 2022

by Rose Alarcon ’22, editor

Abbie Wolff ’22 giving one of her speeches. Photo courtesy of Hamilton College.

On Saturday March 5, the final of the annual public speaking competition took place at 1:00 p.m. at the Chapel, where three prizes were awarded. Open to select members beyond the immediate Hamilton community, the event was hidden except for speakers when they took their turn on stage. According to the contest’s website, “Each award has a maximum speaking time of eight minutes. Speeches need to be planned and rehearsed. You may not use props, PowerPoint or other aids, including clothing.

The Oral Communication Center (OCC) hosted the event. Brooke Kessler ’22 and Peri Kessler ’22, who worked at the OCC for three years, hosted the event. All Hamilton students are eligible to participate and compete, but only eight students made it to the final.

The first competition was for the Clark Prize – only seniors were eligible to compete in this round. Unlike other awards, this award requires addressing a prompt, “What lesson(s) should we learn from the COVID-19 pandemic?” The two seniors who competed were Cherry Zhang ’22 and Jacob Hane ’22. Zhang finally won the award with his speech titled “How Productive Should I Be? Reflections on the meaning of work. She used her speech to discuss the effect of capitalism on the importance of a person’s worth. She highlighted how the pandemic has taught her that there is more to life than work.

Five students competed for the McKinney Prize, which offers students the opportunity to speak on a topic of their choice. This award was given in two installments to two students, the first for seniors and the second for underclassmen.

Abbie Wolff ’22 and Samantha Tassillo ’22 competed for this award, with Wolff and her talk “Apathy and Access: Accessibility at Hamilton College” winning the prize. The speech addressed the issue of accessibility on campus, presenting both the problems and the first potential solutions.

Joe Maalouf ’23, Tinashe Dylan Manguwa ’25 and Emma Reilly ’24 also gave speeches. Manguwa won the award for his speech, “Here is Holy,” where he reflected on his experience in Hamilton, concluding that “I learned two things during my time here. Institutions are often dehumanizing and Hamilton is no exception. The second is the one that a former teacher lent me. Whatever institution I’m in […] I should give myself permission to be fully there. Failing to conform to standards and questioning. As such, the change I wish to see begins right here, where I am, in this space.

The final award was the Warren E. Wright Award, which is only open to students who have taken a public speaking course in Hamilton. Unlike the other speeches, which were persuasive, this speech was intended to be informative. After their performance, the students also had to answer two questions from the audience. Competitors had two minutes to answer these questions.

The finalists were Wolff, Hane and Emilio Vicioso ’23. Wolff won his second award of the day with his talk titled “Reimagining Time and Space with Walkable Communities.” His speech was about a walkable city built with travel times in mind. She likens these spaces to “sprawling” American cities like Los Angeles, which depend on a car to get anywhere.

Students can find more information about the Public Speaking Competition on the OCC website. This section contains a detailed breakdown of the competition process, the various awards, and recordings of past speeches. The two Kesslers encourage students to participate in this annual event because they “believe it is so important for students to showcase their public speaking skills and share with the Hamilton community the issues and topics they are passionate about.”

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