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