Students Express Their Thoughts in Speaking Contest

By: Katie Keyser ’17
Staff Writer

While the Declamation Contest allows students to share performances through skits, the J. Walter Reeves Speaking Contest offers students the ability to share a topic to the community that is important to them.

This year was the 110th annual J. Walter Reeves Speaking Contest, held on Mar. 27 in Geiger -Reeves Hall. J. Walter Reeves taught public speaking, coached the drama club and led the annual speaking contest for 41 years. After Reeves retired, he continued to help in admissions and as a substitute teacher.

While the speaking contest began in 1891, it did not become an annual event until 1904.

“Peddie has this long-standing tradition of not only debate club but also speech contests,” Jay Jaski, arts department teacher and director of the Walter Reeves Speaking Contest, said. “For 110 years, the Walter Reeves Speaking Contest has been happening every single year. This year we had a record number of 41 students sign up and 12 dedicated students met the competition’s requirements.”

The speakers have been working for six weeks to write, practice, and deliver their speeches.

“We spent the first few weeks writing, then really fine tuning them, and then moving toward the delivery of the speech,” Jaski said.

The students who participated spent a lot of time perfecting their speeches.

“The process of brainstorming, writing, editing and rehearsing was thrilling and exciting,” speaker Jason Kong ’17 said. “I liked the contest because it was a good chance to get to express myself and explore theatre as a whole.”

“I liked how this competition gave me the opportunity to share something that is important to me,” Nitya Talreja ’17 said. “I also got the chance to learn many new things about people which I had not known before. “

The contest is designed so that audience members are not only able to learn something new about the speakers but also understand more about an important topic in the world.

“My favorite speech was Andrea’s (Ortega ’15), because I thought that she dealt with an issue that is both relevant in current news and in politics while also being personal, so she was passionate about it,” Micah Patt ’17, audience member, said. “Her delivery was very clean, emotional, and smooth.”

“There were a great variety of speakers and each speaker gave me a different impression of themselves,” Tomotaka Cho ’14 said. “My favorite speech was Mike’s (Coiro ’17). I could totally relate to his speech about communication and how our lives revolve around it.”

After the speeches were performed, three alumni judges, Roger Durling ’82, C. Scott King ’85 and Courtney Sexton ’04, chose the five top speeches.

“The speeches were judged on projection, diction, tempo, emphasis, tone, pitch, rhythm, mastery of the piece and the writing of the speech,” Jaski said.

Dan Panifili ’14 came in first with his speech My Story. Grace Gu ’16 came in second with her speech Take a Leap, Why Not? Amber Li ’15 and Jason Kong ’17 tied for third with their speeches Building Up From Stumbling Blocks and Stop Indifference; Make a Difference. Oliver Crane ’17 received an honorable mention for his speech The Day the Ground Roared.

“This year’s speaking contest was a blast. I had a lot of fun both delivering and watching the audience enjoy something I was truly passionate about,” Trevor Russo ’17, speaker, said. “This is something that I plan on participating in for the next three years of my time here, and maybe even beyond Peddie.”