How judging a speech contest opened my heart

The photo above accurately depicts what I’m feeling right now. That’s because I recently invested 3–4 hours a day for four days judging 12 to 17-year-olds in a national speech contest.

Now ordinarily that is not how I spend my time, but because I received an invitation, or more accurately said, a club I belong to received an invitation that was passed along to me, I literally had the time of my life.

Actually, I invest much of my time since retirement (really semi-retirement because who really gets to retire these days) in the development of others, in particular, young people wherever I find them.

It’s probably not an uncommon thing nowadays to hear something like, “this generation is going to pot.” Of course, that was said of every generation since the beginning of time, but what I experienced this past week will prompt me to have a different view of our youth.

When I accepted the invitation and registered as a judge, I did have some idea about what I was getting into as I have competed in and judged speech competitions before, but this was the first time I have done so for 12 through 17 year-olds. So, I was a little apprehensive about what I might find, but boy was I in for a treat.

Each day that I showed up I was more amazed than the day before. The quality of each speaker in the competition was stunning. I judged four separate and distinct categories, each with its own set of criteria. The common qualities of content, poise, presentation and speech organization, voice tonal qualities and speed, gestures and delivery style, among others, were all relevant and present in each speech.

One of the most prevalent fears of humans is the fear of public speaking. There’s just something completely vulnerable and imposing about standing up in front of a group of people, no matter what size group it is, and beginning to open one’s mouth, whatever the reason might be. In case you’re wondering the scientific name for the anxiety or fear of speaking in public is “Glossophobia.”

If any of the children I saw was under the spell of glossophobia, you could have fooled me. They were all winners, every one of them. The courage they displayed was as impeccable as their words. I was and am grateful and privileged to been invited to attend and participate.

During my career as a mid-level manager, and my subsequent profession as a life architect, I have had the opportunity to interview and guide a good number of young people and those who seemed most authentic to me were those who were able to authentically express themselves about their views and values.

I found that, as a judge, I didn’t have to agree with their content while I appreciated their ability to present, project, and profess their deep beliefs. I also really appreciated the ability to tell and share the stories and their talents.

In summary, I would do this again in a heartbeat! And if now is the only chance I will ever get to say thank you…I’m doing it here and now!

THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART FOR OFFERING ME HOPE, hope that there is still a chance for communication, truth, and dialogue to continue to be an element of high regard for growth, maturity, and leadership.

Blessings to you National Christian Forensics and Communication Association for a job well done! To the parents who have fostered a learning environment and supported your children in the sometimes daunting challenge of expressing themselves, I say…Bravo! You, your children, and the communities in which you live, work, and play will definitely reap rewards beyond your knowing.

In today’s turbulent global atmosphere, each of us plays a role and to the extent to which we can understand each other's point of view, we can achieve peace and prosperity. It was indeed my good fortune to have witnessed the emerging possibilities inherent in the lives of these children and young adults!

May you continue your contributions to our planet!

A believer in Lifelong Learning and Collaborative Wisdom, remembering Who I AM through essay, story, and poetry. Listening for narratives that nurture Life.

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