I had the pleasure to meet leaders of tomorrow on Monday afternoon, after I was once again asked by Defiance City Schools superintendent Bob Morton to help judge the annual Defiance Rotary Club Four-Way Speech Contest.
I was joined by judges Dr. Carla Higgins, assistant professor of education/director of education at Defiance College; and Todd Shafer, Defiance police chief.
The three of us, and local Rotarians, were treated to speeches from a trio of impressive high school students including, Brenna Elston and Cameron McDonald of Defiance High School; and Emma Luthi of Tinora High School. Unfortunately Alex Dean of Ayersville High School was ill and unable to attend. (See related photo, page A1).
The three competed in the contest for a chance to represent the local charitable organization at the District 6600 conference in Van Wert on April 18.
The criteria for a speech is as follows; each speech has to be between 5-7 minutes, it can be memorized, and reading of the speech is discouraged.
All speeches also had to include the Rotary Four-Way Test, which asks: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
McDonald went first and the DHS senior began his speech by saying: “Andy Andrews, best-selling author stated in his novel, “The Butterfly Effect,” ‘By your hand, millions — billions — of lives will be altered, caught up in a chain of events begun by you this day.’
During his speech, in which he rhymed from start to finish, McDonald spoke of the wisdom of King Solomon, and the kindness and honesty of Fred Rogers, of the former PBS TV program, “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.”
Said McDonald: “’The Butterfly Effect’ ensures one truth, that we do not know what might come about. Some may be beneficial to the youth, some actions may cause ill to black out. Intentions by accident cause bad, but may also be true. The best thing to do, is simply be, the best version of you.”
Luthi, was next, and the junior caught everyone’s attention by saying: “It has been written about for tens of thousands of years by poets, writers and dreamers alike. It does not need to be talked about to be understood ... love.”
“Love is the truth ... love is fair ... love is kind,” added Luthi. “When love is received, it allows one to flourish, and it inspires goodness. Love is a prayer that God will always answer. When you call to her (love), she will be there. Love is a gift that is free.”
Elston, went third, and the senior got a laugh from the crowd when she said: “In a world of hatred and hypocrisy ... it can be hard to figure out how to spend your time. On any team there will be leaders, those who oppose, and those who care less what you’re doing. That’s what I’ve learned in my long 18 years.”
Elston’s focus was on truth, how people see truth differently, that morals can lead us all to what is true, and putting others first is the best way to live.
“If you take time to think about others, to put them first, we can provide them with what they truly need,” said Elston. “In helping others, it helps you have more compassion ... and it helps create bonds. Helping others leads to happiness, it’s scientifically true ... “
McDonald captured the $200 first prize and will represent Defiance Rotary at the district competition. Elston finished second and earned $100; while Luthi was third and earned $50.
Congratulations to each of the contestants, you all represented yourselves, your schools, and your community, honorably.