MONTREAL, MAY 3, 2010 – Westmount High School was the site of the English Montreal School Board’s (EMSB) annual Public Speaking Competition, pitting some of the city’s finest teenaged orators against one another. All secondary levels from one through five were involved. Victorious students from schools holding their own speaking competitions, 41 in all, then met on April 30 to compete for the EMSB’s top awards.
Organized and presented by EMSB English Language Arts Consultant (Secondary) Anne Beamish, the day-long event featured speakers from Cycle One, Year One (Secondary I), ascending through the levels and culminating with Cycle Two, Year Three (Secondary IV).
Topics presented were as entertaining as they were interesting in many cases. Secondary 1 student Emilio Di Giacomo of Lester B Pearson High School was witty and honest in “Friendship with a Slice of Pizza,” as he described sharing a piece of his mom’s excellent pie, on his first day at school, with a new schoolmate from Afghanistan whose mom had sent him to school empty-handed. “How could a mom not have made her son some lunch?” he queried, with an incredulous tone. Nicole Kitner described in heart-stirring manner her lifetime of experiences with “Uncle Steven,” her mother’s beloved autistic brother.
The Secondary II orators were also able to move the appreciative audience. Sofia Acosta of LaurenHill Academy detailed her love and respect of her late uncle “Enrique,” who has become her eternal role model. Manda Fischer of FACE School detailed her family’s love for “Sonic,” a large, clumsy stray cat that wandered into their home and heart before being hit by a car and killed. A winner last year, Chris Laett-Babcock of Royal West Academy really hit one out of the park with “Curse of the Lisp,” humourously detailing his very personal struggle with a lisp and proving without a doubt that public speaking is down the road for him, if he so chooses, despite the impediment.
The Secondary III students delivered talks that dealt with more serious societal issues, including “Body Scanners in Airports,” “Terrorism,” “Violence Hits Home” and the “Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.”
By the Secondary IV stage, some very serious subjects had permeated the event. Gabriella Daly of LaurenHill Academy talked about “Rape,” Alexandre St. Onge of Rosemount High School examined “Animal Rights” and Delissa White-Francis of Marymount Academy noted that many in the black community are “Our Own Worst Enemy,” by creating and furthering popular stereotypes that perpetuate racism. Then Phillip Zakrzewski of FACE quoted certain “experts” who detailed why “The Official Story of 9/11 is a Lie,” an event staged by Americans, a conspiracy theory popular among today’s teens. And Justine Zimmerman of Westmount High School made an extremely compelling argument for “Legalizing Marijuana,” another very popular belief today. “We need to start looking at ‘weed’ not as a problem, but as a solution,” she determined, explaining why earlier negative medical studies are being overturned by latter-day studies.
As expected, the Secondary V students closed the event by presenting orations on the most varied and thought-provoking subjects. Generally, topics throughout the day became increasingly difficult and often more controversial with each advancing year, commensurate with life experience.
Fabio Da Costa of Rosemount High looked at the damage from, and cost and unethical use of, “Biological Weapons.” Sarah Ferraro of Lester B. Pearson examined an increasing trend in “Custom Made Deliveries: Are Designer Babies Ethical?” Saskia Klunder of F.A.C.E. made some extremely mature observations regarding the human quest for emotional power in “Hunger for Power Fuels Our Planet” and a frustrated Natalia Neptune of Marymount Academy, who stands 6’1” in height, brought the house down when she bemoaned the state of her life “Being Tall.” Arthur Schiller of Royal West Academy spoke volumes to his fellow students when he advised them to “Follow Your Dreams,” resisting the well-meaning advice of others when determining their career choices. Schiller evoked the notion of author Theodore Geisel listening to his parents and actually becoming Dr. Seuss instead of a writer: His diagnoses would always rhyme, Sam would be his sole patient and green eggs and ham would be a constant-but-dubious remedy!
Each student had between two to four minutes, depending on the level, to make their points as succinctly as possible and each commentary was judged by a panel comprised of retired EMSB teacher Anne Lepore, EMSB English Language Arts Consultant Terry Saba and Andrew Webster of The Rotary Club of Montreal.
The winners of the event were: Nicole Kitner from Royal West in Secondary I; Chris Laette-Babcock from Royal West in Secondary II; Josh Fitchman-Goldberg from Royal West in Secondary III; Alexandra Di Lazzaro from John F. Kennedy High School in Secondary IV; and Arthur Schiller from Royal West in Secondary V.