Top Senior Speakers Compete in Annual Contest

With just over a week until graduation, the members of the class of 2021 gathered in Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts’ DuBois Theatre on May 17 for a quintessential Blair rite-of-passage: the annual Senior Public Speaking Contest. During the evening event, 12 seniors spoke eloquently on topics of their choosing, and a panel of faculty judges selected the top three orators: Lily Starrs ’21 (first place); Sofia Kasparik ’21 (second place); and Ramla Gunnarsdottir ’21 (third place). English department chair Jim Moore announced the winners at the seniors’ final School Meeting on May 21.

To view the winning speeches, press “play” below”

Seniors began gearing up for the Senior Public Speaking Contest earlier in the second semester, when they wrote and filmed their Leadership Stories as part of their English classes. In this exercise, they related how they faced a challenge or choice and remained true to their values, and the experience helped prepare them to construct a speech they could share with a broad audience.

“Unlike the Leadership Story—which allows for ‘do-overs’ since it is filmed—the senior speech incorporates much more in the way of delivery skills,” Mr. Moore remarked. “Students have to focus on projection, pacing, enunciation and reading the audience, all the elements that speaking to a live audience in a large venue requires. These are important skills for our seniors to begin to master before they graduate, and the Senior Public Speaking Contest is excellent practice in this regard.”

In addition to the development of writing and speaking skills, Mr. Moore shared another reason why the Senior Public Speaking Contest is such an important milestone for Blair’s soon-to-be alumni. “The event is essentially the beginning of seniors’ last week at Blair,” he said. “Their speeches represent a final message or thoughts they want to share with the School community before they move on to the next stage of their lives.”

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The all-school read provides the entire Blair community, from students to faculty and staff, an opportunity to engage with a single work of literature. The tradition, started in 2017, offers students the chance to interact with up-and-coming authors and thinkers, and it allows the entire community to have a collective conversation about important issues.

Read More about New & Noteworthy: The Boy with Two Hearts Is Blair’s 2021 All-School Read