Finalists of Speaking Competition Announced

14 students competed in the semifinals rounds of the annual Woodrow Wilson Public Speaking Contest this past Wednesday in the Ambrecht Room of the Noyes History Center.

14 students competed in the semifinals rounds of the annual Woodrow Wilson Public Speaking Contest this past Wednesday in the Ambrecht Room of the Noyes History Center. The semifinalists were Awo Addo ’23, Kelsie Choi ’22, Elyssa Chou ’20, Zack Finnachio ’21, Caitlin Gu ’21, Stephanie Kim ’21, Deven Kinney ’20, Anjali Kumar ’21, Alex Liang ’21, Jack Patel ’23, Summer Qureshi ’22, Tesia Thomas ’22, Chelsea Wang ’21, and Michael Zhang ’21. Judges of the semifinals round Chair of the Visual Arts Department Brian Daniell H’89 ’06 and Chair of the Language Department Devondra McMillan, selected this year’s finalists: Chou, Finacchio, Liang, Thomas, and Wang. Through this competition, Lawrentians have the opportunity to learn how to effectively deliver their stories and messages to the audience, discover and develop their passion for public speaking, and share their stories with the community. These semifinalists reached this stage by advancing through the classroom round and quarterfinals.

On the mission of the competition, coordinator of the event and Chair of the English Department Miranda Christoffersen P’14 ’18 said that the competition “is not just the English Department’s project.” She continued, “It is a school wide project. Public speaking is important in every aspect of education. Being able to stand up in front of the audience and hold their attention for a few minutes is important.”

The semifinalists described public speaking and their experiences with the activity in varying ways. To Choi, public speaking is like a “daily conversation with friends but with a bigger audience.” On the other hand, Zhang described public speaking “as a key life skill” because “being able to communicate our ideas in an appealing [and] logical manner is how people succeed.” Gu viewed public speaking as a way for her “voice to be heard and get [her] message across and hopefully make an impact in the lives of the audience.”

This year’s prompt was “What holds us back?” Semifinalists had five minutes to present their speeches. Choi spoke about how superficiality hinders us from valuing our true selves as much as we should. Choi said, “Due to our superficial appearances—such as our appearances and the brands of clothings we wear—we did not really have a chance to unveil our true selves. By valuing ourselves, we can come closer together as a community and learn about and from each other more.” Zhang talked about how we, ourselves, create mental barriers and mindset that prevent us from putting in effort, which is why we lose great opportunities. Zhang said, “We are our own jailer… Therefore, we have to learn how to get out of the mental jail. If we overcome mental restrictions and impediments, we can do anything.”

Kim’s speech revolved around how, at times, respect for others prevents her from articulating points and views. “Although one would think that respecting others would hold one back but according to my personal experience, often times, I don’t get respect back. For example, I would allow people to speak over me, but I would end up sacrificing my opportunity to speak in a Harkness discussion,” she said. Therefore, Kim wants the audience to know that “sometimes one has to be vocal because it is not a matter of respect.”

The school community will have the opportunity to hear the finalists’ takes on the prompt during school meeting on April 2.