Six students compete in oratory competition

by Sam Rauschenfels | 5/30/11 10:00pm

Six student orators addressed issues ranging from alcohol to privacy rights while demonstrating their skills at the Benjamin F. Barge and Class of 1866 Prizes for Oratory speech contest. The competition was organized by Josh Compton, senior lecturer in speech at the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric, and took place on May 19. Laura Kier '12 and Christopher Rhoades '13 received the Class of 1866 Prizes for Oratory, which is presented to one junior and one sophomore, while Michelle Luo '11 won the Benjamin F. Barge Prize for Oratory, awarded to a member of the graduating class who best delivers an English oration, Luo said. The other three finalists were Eliana Fishman '11, Zoe Friedland '12 and Ben Schifberg '13.

Students submitted written manuscripts of speeches they had written to the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric in April or were nominated by Compton. Following a preliminary competition, six students were selected to speak in the final round of competition.

Compton did not return requests for comment by press time.

The final six contestants delivered five to six minute speeches to a three-judged panel composed of Dartmouth theater professor Jamie Horton, attorney Paul Klaas '74 and Vermont Superior Court Judge Mary Teachout, according to Luo.

Luo, who discussed the issues of privacy associated with social media websites in a speech titled "Facebook Privacy," said she didn't take the issue "super seriously" when she began writing her speech for Compton's Public Speaking class in the fall. As her research progressed, however, she became increasingly cognizant of the importance surrounding privacy issues, Luo said.

Luo, who Compton nominated to advance to the final round of competition, said the risk of making a mistake in front of a large audience is part of what makes public speaking so thrilling.

"I actually have intense stage fright, which is ironic," Luo said.

Kier edited a speech on coeducation at the College that she wrote in her Fall term Speechwriting class.

"I loved my speech class in the fall," Kier said. "I'm an engineer, so I don't really get many opportunities to do this kind of thing."

To prepare for the contest, Kier shortened her speech and spent significant time reading her manuscript to friends in order to gather feedback.

Kier said her speech was easy to memorize due to her extensive editing process and because she wrote it in one sitting.

While writing her speech, Kier spoke with peers and gathered stories of women who were Dartmouth students during the shift to coeducation, she said.

"It's a very hot topic right now," Kier said, explaining that women's place at Dartmouth is particularly relevant given the recent efforts of the College's eight Panhellenic sororities to address the issue of sexual assault.

Writing the speech helped Kier "self-educate" and become more aware of what it means to be a woman at the College, she said.

Rhoades, who also completed Compton's Public Speaking class in Fall term, said the competition was a positive, meaningful experience.

"It was very gratifying," Rhoades said. "I tried to engage with my audience as much as possible."

Rhoades' speech, titled "Energy Drinks and Alcohol: A Risky Combination," focused on the dangers of combining two legal substances. Like Kier, he initially wrote the speech for class and then edited it for the competition.

The competition took place in Kemeny Hall and was sponsored by the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric.

The Barge Prize for Oratory was established by Benjamin Barge in 1901 while the Class of 1866 Prizes for Oratory were established in 1905 by Waldemer Otis and James Spaulding, members of the Class of 1866, according to the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric website. The prizes were presented annually until a hiatus in 2004. The Barge Prize was reintroduced in 2010, while the Class of 1866 Prizes returned this year.

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!