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Seniors Start 'Last Lap at Blair' with Annual Speech Contest

Posted: May 18, 2017

The best speakers from each section of Advanced Placement English language went head-to-head on May 15 in Blair’s annual Senior Public Speaking Contest.

Selected by their peers to represent each class in the grade-wide oratory competition, these 11 students delivered wide-ranging addresses, many of which reflected on their Blair careers and looked to the future as soon-to-be college freshmen.

A panel of faculty members considered the merits of each speech, announcing the winners at Friday School Meeting a few days later: Emily Choi ’17 received top honors as the first-place winner, while Misa Kim ’17 and Ratchanon Pornmongkolsuk ’17 came in second and third, respectively. The community cheered as English department faculty members presented the winners with gift cards. (To view the speeches of the top-three contestants, scroll down and click “play” below).

A Culmination of Public Speaking at Blair

For seniors, the speech contest was the culmination of four years of practicing the art of effective communication across departments at Blair, and the process of preparing for the annual event brought the class together. Students in every English class shared personal stories and anecdotes with their classmates and teachers, and the contest marked the first of many “lasts” for the senior class in the lead-up to graduation later this month.

“Watching my class deliver their speeches, I felt happy to see how much we’ve grown since we gave our sophomore speeches two years ago,” said Misa, who took a comedic approach to her senior speech for Mr. Evans’ class, detailing how hard it is to write a speech. “I remember as a sophomore that we all took the speech competition very seriously and tried to write speeches that sounded impressive and important, but now everyone is really comfortable sharing stories that range from incredibly serious to completely absurd. It feels like we’ve really come into our own.”

The process of preparing speeches to share with fellow seniors as part of Mr. Evans’ English class was a unifying experience for the grade as a whole, added Tys Sweeney ’17, who spoke about the importance of preserving cultural history through libraries, museums and universities for his class, also taught by Mr. Evans. “Many speeches are personal in nature, with stories and learned morals,” he said. “ The sharing of those stories, that implicit trust between audience and speaker, cements bonds within the class and preserves those that already exist as we prepare to graduate.”

Wide-Ranging Perspectives & Voices

In addition to serving as “the beginning of the last lap at Blair,” Mr. Moore hopes that the senior speech contest reminds senior presenters and audience members that there are a wide range of voices and perspectives at Blair.

“Preparing their last speech as Blair students gives kids the chance to pause and start to think about the value of their time at Blair by writing about it and hearing their classmates speak about it,” he explained. “It is always great to see the students we know are strong communicators take the stage, but it is also really extraordinary to watch quieter students find their voices and wow the community with the speeches they deliver.”

Proof of ‘How Far We’ve Come’ & Lessons Learned

As seniors listened to Monday night’s speeches from classmates, it was hard not to draw comparisons to the lead-up to the class of 2017’s Sophomore Public Speaking Contest in 2015. Tys remembers writing a “terrible speech that didn’t even make it past the first round.”

“Since then, I’ve presented a lot of speeches about The Oracle [which he founded] and the Water Bottle Project, and improved my level of comfort and skill on stage,” he said. “I would say that this senior contest highlights that progress because it is the cumulative result of skills I’ve gathered over my time at Blair, skills I have been working on for years.”

Although Misa says she has had fewer opportunities to speak in public over the last four years, preparing her speech for Mr. Evans’ class taught her a lot about not comparing herself to other students and remaining authentic.

“I spent a lot of time watching past speeches on Vimeo in hopes that I could find some sort of ‘speech template’ or inspiration, but I soon realized that something like that doesn’t exist and writing my address based on someone else’s would only make my speech less genuine,” she said.

Last Updated: May 22, 2017