A Win­ning Per­spec­tive

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Len­noxville

For a first at­tempt at pub­lic speak­ing, Len­noxville’s Leah David­son did fairly well – she won the Ro­tary District 7850’s in­ter­na­tional Speech Con­test. “The vice prin­ci­pal of my school, Mrs. Retch­less, and my English teacher, Mrs. Stevens, told me about the con­test and en­cour­aged

me to en­ter,” com­mented Leah, a level 5 stu­dent at Alexan­der Galt High School.

Leah had to present her win­ning speech in three com­pe­ti­tions, and be­cause the lo­cal Ro­tary District, which in­cludes the Ro­tary Club of the Boundary, is in­ter­na­tional, these were held in Canada and the United States. “The first con­test was at Stanstead Col­lege, in March, and the sec­ond one, with semi­fi­nal­ists, was at a high school in Lebanon, New Hamp­shire, on April 9th. We were di­vided into two groups: con­tes­tants from Ver­mont and those from out­side of Ver­mont,” she ex­plained. Leah was the win­ner of her group, mov­ing on to the fi­nal which was held at the end of April at the Stowe Moun­tain Lodge. “There were a lot of peo­ple in the au­di­ence for the last one – about one hun­dred and fifty!”

Her speech was en­ti­tled “Build­ing com­mu­ni­ties and Bridg­ing Con­ti­nents”, this year’s theme of the Ro­tary Club. “The Ro­tary Club chose the topic but we could take any an­gle that we wanted. There are many dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tions of that theme.”

Lis­ten­ing to Leah re­peat some of her speech dur­ing our in­ter­view, it’s easy to see how she won: she knew it by heart, still spoke the words with per­sonal con­vic­tion, and it was well­writ­ten, grab­bing the at­ten­tion of the lis­tener in the first sen­tence. “I be­gan with the quote from All I re­ally Need to Know I Learned in Kinder­garten: Share ev­ery­thing, play fair, don’t hit peo­ple, say you’re sorry when you hurt some­body, and, when you go out into the world, watch for traf­fic, hold hands, and stick to­gether.” She then went on to draw the con­nec­tion be­tween that fa­mous quote of Robert Ful­ghum and some of the is­sues of our times such as the shar­ing of drink­ing wa­ter and cli­mate change. “If you think about global warm­ing, Canada is not play­ing fair. Other coun­tries are suf­fer­ing more from what we are do­ing,” Leah com­mented.

She ended her speech with a mes­sage of hope, ask­ing the Ro­tar­i­ans in the au­di­ence to travel back to their child­hood with: “You for­get your lunch. A friend of­fers to share. A girl care­fully se­lects gifts to send in a shoe­box to a war-torn coun­try. Mul­ti­col­ored hands link in Ring around the Rosie. It is in those mo­ments that we build com­mu­ni­ties and bridge con­ti­nents.”

What Leah found most chal­leng­ing about tak­ing part in the speech con­test was “get­ting over nerves.” “I would be quite calm and then, five min­utes be­fore I had to speak , it’s Oh no! Just keep­ing calm was hard. Lis­ten­ing to the other speak­ers helped, un­less they were bet­ter!” she joked. “It was im­por­tant to just take a few breaths and look around the au­di­ence be­fore speak­ing.”

Some other tips that Leah had for oth­ers who might dare to com­pete in a pub­lic speak­ing con­test were: “Speak slowly and ar­tic­u­late ev­ery syl­la­ble. Put emo­tion and per­sua­sion into your voice and make eye con­tact with ev­ery­one in the room. I think it’s im­por­tant to think about ev­ery­thing you say as you say it. And just en­joy it; if you do and you are pas­sion­ate about your topic, you’ll con­nect with the au­di­ence.”

“I re­ally en­joyed learn­ing to per­fect the skill of pub­lic speak­ing. It was re­ally en­cour­ag­ing to have peo­ple say­ing such pos­i­tive things and to see the pro­gres­sion. I learnt how to present my ideas and how to talk so peo­ple can un­der­stand what I say. I gained con­fi­dence,” said Leah.

Leah didn’t only learn about pub­lic speak­ing through this con­test; she also learnt a lot about the Ro­tary Club. “I heard about all their in­ter­na­tional projects – there was even a group of Ro­tar­i­ans from Tur­key at the competition in Stowe. They have lots of dif­fer­ent part­ner­ships and I can def­i­nite un­der­stand how they ful­fill their mis­sion of bridg­ing com­mu­ni­ties and bridg­ing con­ti­nents.”

photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Galt stu­dent Leah David­son won the Ro­tary’s in­ter­na­tional Speech con­test which had its fi­nal in Stowe, Ver­mont, a few weeks ago.

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