With a wide range of topics, from organ donation to capitalism as modern slavery, the three females and five males demonstrated their public speaking talents eloquently.
Each speaker was asked two questions from designated guests — a representative from The Compass and lawyer Adam Gosse — on their topics following each speech, and were judged on how they answered the question.
The audience didn’t envy the judges — lawyer John Brown, radio personality Daisy Dawe and lawyer John Crosbie — who spent more than half-an-hour deliberating the Top-3.
“Any of the speakers could win,” an anxious parent noted as the judges returned.
For the first time that night, all eight speakers introduced themselves to the audience, announcing their name, school, teacher sponsor and ambition. They remained anonymous up until that point — named solely by a number — to prevent possible judging bias.
The most anticipated part of the evening came as Brown announced the three winners — Zachary LeShane, Riley Balsom and Leah Clarke.
Taking first place was Zachary LeShane of Baccalieu Collegiate.
One of the most memorable comments of the night was when Brown, who was the spokesperson for the judges, referred to LeShane, who is a political activist, as a “young Joseph R. Smallwood” because of his powerful and informative speech on whether the media can construe public opinion.
The comment was bittersweet for the 16-year-old.
Being a young Progressive Conservative member and aspiring politician, being compared to a Liberal leader left LeShane speechless.
But being paralleled to a leader of the calibre of Smallwood was humbling for him as well.
He was applauded for being so “well-versed” and had complete command of his topic. Brown referred to him as a, “small gentleman who appears much larger,” while presenting.
LeShane received $100 for first place.
Second place and a $50 prize went to one of the most animated performers of the evening — Riley Balsom of Carbonear Collegiate.
The passion this young man has for his province was obvious during his speech on the “excellent leadership of the Progressive Conservative party of Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Although he appeared very politically motivated with his topic, many were surprised to know his career goal is to be an educator.
Although her voice was soft, Leah Clarke’s message was strong.
This Ascension collegiate student, who took third in the competition, spoke on how being an adolescent is fearful in a world of critics and media influences.
It was clear the topic struck close to home with Clarke, and the raw emotion on her face told the story.
“That was a very strong performance,” Brown exclaimed.
Clarke received $25 for her placing.
The winner is offered the opportunity to attend the district speak off, which will take place on Saturday, April 12 in Gander.
LeShane, who is quite involved in cadets and other community organizations, will be in Europe for Vimy Week, thus being unable to attend the event in Gander.
It is unknown at this time if Balsom will attend in LeShane’s place, but he told The Compass last night he’d be ready if he was asked to step up.
Brown lightheartedly joked with each competitor during the critiquing period.
He garnered plenty of laughs as he told the first speaker, MacKenzie King of Carbonear Collegiate, how fantastic a job she did leading the country in the 1930s. Joking about her shared name with a former political figure made the audience laugh, while King shook her head and smirked. She spoke about texting.
When Brown called speaker Nathaniel Wells, who spoke on organ donation, by the wrong name, the young man tried to correct him.
“You should never correct the speaker,” Brown quipped towards the Ascension Collegiate student.
Mark Peddle from Carbonear Collegiate was playfully told he has a lack of ambition when he couldn’t give more than, “I want to go to MUN,” as his answer to what his ambition is.
Peddle spoke about revolt and rebellion that has taken place around the world from both the rebel and government sides. He was commended on his advanced vocabulary and diction.
When Jacob Elyk from Carbonear Collegiate arrived in a black suit and tie, Brown applauded him for his attire, and joked about the morbidity of all black.
“You could be a lawyer or (work in) a mortuary in that suit,” he told him.
Elyk’s speech described the growing wealth gap between large corporation owners and the average person, noting capitalism is controlling the western world.
Tori Oliver of Baccalieu Collegiate is passionate about saving our planet from self-destruction.
Her explanation about water conservation and protecting the ecosystem to prevent global warming was informative. She was confident in her delivery, and answered her questions precisely and to the point.
The judges explained the competition was tight, and it was a hard decision to make.
“There’s not a weak one in the bunch of you,” Brown concluded. It was a very tough decision.
“I hope all of you continue to pursue this type of activity in the future.”