All Are Winners At Speechfest

Mercy Speechfest of 2012 had five contestants…and five winners.

More than just evaluating the technical aspects of delivering a speech such as making eye contact with your audience or projection of voice, this year’s five participants in the Mercy College 2012 Speechfest competition were passionate and had something to say about topics ranging from national debt to deplorable puppy mill conditions.

It was a platform these students used to educate the audience and not just a speech contest to them; it was a call to arms for people to take action.

Rayne Savino Tapia, is an 18 year old journalism broadcast major at Mercy College. Originally from the Dominican Republic, she has been in the country just three years. Her speech entitled “Close the Puppy Mills!” was a passion filled assault on the puppy mill trade.

Though she speaks with a slight accent from her home region, the message in her speech is concise and clear as you feel she is specifically talking to you, though the room is filled with close to 100 people.

“The dog is man’s best friend but is man dogs best friend?” she asks everyone in the room during her speech.

Tapia is a lover of animals and was deeply concerned when she learned about how animals are treated in puppy mills, so the decision to do her speech about the trade was a chance for her to speak out. With eyes filled with compassion and a voice singing out with fire, Tapia stands as out as a champion for those that are part of society that do not have a voice to speak for themselves.

From puppy mills, the topic of social concern shifts to a more technology based format.

As Marcus Munno takes command of the podium to speak, he intensely canvases the audience before beginning his speech. Munno, a junior and biology major chose to do his speech titled “The Future of Scientific Innovations” because he is extremely passionate about the use of science to wipe out hunger and feed the masses.

“Despite our accomplishments, a billion people go to bed hungry everyday” Munno says during his speech.

Munno says that he was a little nervous about giving his speech but you would never know it from his strong deliverance and presence in front of the audience.  He even manages to make an ironic and witty comment about science in a biblical reference during his presentation.

“There weren’t any tangerines in the Garden of Eden” he says, which is a very poignant statement regarding the state of technology and how mankind has been using it to engineer food for people in everyday life.

From a worldwide scientific concern to an American socioeconomic topic, the next speaker steps up to drive the speech contest in yet another direction.

Matthew Evans, a 24 year old psychology major stands proudly in front of the audience to address the issue of national debt. Sporting a small American flag on the lapel of his suit jacket, Evans prepares to deliver his speech titled “A Balanced Budget Amendment,” and gives off an aura that he will be running for office in 2012.

Rightfully so.  His intelligent and fact filled presentation posed very serious commentary on the American debt crisis.

“Why is the government allowed to operate in a way we cannot on a day to day basis,” Evans says regarding overtly excessive spending happening in government. He goes on to say that if the current share of debt was assigned to every citizen in the country, it would be over $100,000. Also, for every newborn child that takes a single breath, their share would be $50k.

That’s just for being born!

Though Evans delivered a very professional and confident speech, he says that in all actuality he was nervous about doing his presentation.

“Nerves show that you care. I was extremely passionate about what I was talking about and wanted to deliver more than just a speech…I wanted to educate.”

As Evans concluded his speech followed by a round of applause like the two speakers before him, things would now to shift back to a scientific nature with the next presenter.

Lucas Munno, a 22 year old biology major junior, took front and center.  His speech “The Bioethics of Stem Cells,” placed him squarely in the thick of a very controversial subject. He admirably takes a position regarding where he stands on stem cell research and its ramifications.

“You know how your parents told you that you could grow up to be anything you want to be? That is what stem cells are,” Munno says on the potential that stem cells have.

Throughout his presentation, Munno talks about the fight against ailments such as cancer and Parkinson’s disease, while embracing how using stem cell research could lead to the discoveries of cures.

The road to Speechfest for Munno like his fellow contestants was one of passion for his position on the topic. Engaging the crowd to think about the merits of stem cell research made his speech more than just an informative plea demonstrating how to deliver a speech; you would be inspired to evaluate your own stance on the subject after listening to him if it were opposite to his.

The hardest part for him was the moment just before he went on. Munno says that ultimately his career goal is to become a teacher or doctor but regardless of his ultimate career choice, the desire to make a positive difference in society is what he wants above all.

Making a difference by being through social awareness would be an apt theme for the contestants of the 2012 Speechfest. Subjects of matter to the world, Americans, and treatment of animals that are both relevant and current have been platforms covered this year.

Kiara Duncan, an 18 year old Mercy College freshman and final speaker of the contest takes position to take charge of the crowd at the podium. Her face focused, her eyes filled with conviction, she begins her speech “Trayvon Martin Was Murdered.” Though her face may show the world she is young, her speech delivery and presence is far beyond that of her appearance.

Duncan is wearing a light colored “hoodie” and it proves to be more than just a fashion statement. During her speech, Duncan pulls her hood over her head to accentuate the main point of her speech.

“I have an emotional connection to this case…I believe George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon.”

Duncan leaves the crowd with no speculation regarding how she feels about what happened in the Martin/Zimmerman case. Her opinion is unwavering because being from the Bronx, she says her life has been touched in similar circumstances.

“I have had members of my family that have died this way and enough is enough” she says with a call to action in her voice.

Duncan has a special supporter in the audience, her mother Lakisha. She took time off work so that she could be there as her daughter gave her speech and could not stop smiling as she stood proudly by her daughter after the speech was completed while Duncan held her participatory award.

“That’s my baby and I just wanted her to know that I supported her” says her mother.

Unfortunately, there had to be a winner named in this contest of highly motivated young people. That job would befall three judges; Associate Professor Emerita Eileen McMahon English Literature; School of Liberal Arts ,  Dr. Sean Dugan, Professor; Chairman of the Department of Humities; School of Liberal Arts, and Dr. Richard Medoff, Associate Professor; Speech Communication Program; School of Liberal Arts.

This would be the ninth year that Dr. Medoff is involved in the Speechfest contest and he said that he was thoroughly impressed with the contestants this year. However, regardless of what the subject matter was of each speech, this was a speech contest so he and the other judges had to be emotionally detached from the presentations and judge each contestant on a set of technical guidelines.

The speakers were not allowed to read their speech. They were only allowed to take cue cards with them and deliver their speech extemporaneously says Dr. Medoff.

But this was a contest and based on technical judging criteria standards, a winner was chosen by the judges for the 2012 Speechfest.

This year… (insert drum roll please)… that would be Matthew Evans. Congratulations!

Speaking in front of crowds is one of the top five phobias people have; many break out in nervous sweat with even the thought of having to do so.

So in the case of Speechfest 2012, not only was it a rousing success but it showcased the talents of five motivated Mercy students.  Fittingly, each one received a trophy acknowledging their hard work. In that respect, each participant was a winner.