Freshman Tim Tan edgedout three other contestants Wednesday to win the Baldwin Oratorical Speech Contest.
The theme was “Practicing Civic Engagement,” and students gave persuasive, extemporaneous speeches for the judges. Preliminary rounds were held on April 5, 6, and 7, and were judged by the Rhetoric department professors (Jennifer Abbott, Jill Lamberton, Jenny Hamilton, and Todd McDorman). The 12 contestants were asked to address a public issue and advocate one solution that would help solve the problem. Students had to clearly address the issue and localize their solutions as much as possible while explaining how the problem impacts the audience. Their goal was to persuade the audience to believe in their solutions and guide them towards an action plan.
There were 12 students entered into the preliminary rounds, but only four could move on to the finals. They finalists were freshman Derrick Li, senior Adam Phipps, junior Reggie Steele, and freshman Tan. They attempted to sway the minds of judges Todd Barton (class of 2000), Alexandra Hoerl (assistant professor of Political Science), and Ryan Vaughn (also class of 2000).
“I received a lot of help from the entire Rhetoric department,” Tan said. “I was nervous, especially near the very end of the speech. It was a great opportunity for me, and I think this contest is a great way for students to choose a topic and try and convince the audience a certain direction. I greatly appreciated the audience who showed up tonight.”
As the winner of the 137th annual contest, Tan won the $250 top prize. The fourth-place finalist and winner of $50 was Derrick Li; third was Reggie Steele who took the $100 prize. Adam Phipps was second and received the $150 prize.
Freshman Derrick Li was the leadoff speaker, reflecting on the possibility of changing the Wabash tradition of same-sex education. He advocated Wabash should begin a coed education program in which students could take one course each semester at nearby Purdue University. Li believed it would bring in more applicants as well as a more social and prestigious presence to our campus. It would also allow for students to enroll in courses not offered at Wabash, and it could help keep our alumni support.
Next up was junior Reggie Steele, whose speech was titled “Wabash College, Practice What You Preach.” He advocated that Wabash College should stop tolerating students of color and instead embrace them. .
Tan was third to speak. He discussed issues regarding homosexuality. He advocated Wabash College needs to show more support for the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) organization.
The final speaker of the night was senior Adam Phipps, whose oration reminded students how poorly the Wabash campus is treated. His speech, “Recycling at Wabash,” proposed the current system must be revised and we must take charge and become better recycling advocates.
The competition is a tradition that dates back to the beginning years of the school, in 1873, when Judge D.P. Baldwin hosted the first event. Baldwin believed awards should be given to the students who “composed and pronounced the best orations.”
According to Professor Abbott, Wabash continues to carry on this event so students have their opportunity to voice their perspectives and advocate positions on topics that matter. Every year the contest reminds us, Abbott said, that it is important for our community to think about real world issues and that we have significant roles in how public speaking is meaningful in our democratic society.
Finalists in photo on lower right: From left, Phipps, Tan, Steele, Li. Photos by Drew Casey '12