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The Aquilian

The Aquilian

    Annual speech contest helps students learn important life skills

    Taken by Mr. Conrad Singh

    “The art of public speaking is an extremely important skill that we should teach you here. I can tell you, you shouldn’t leave Gonzaga, being totally afraid of public speaking. You should have some experience with it in some confidence,” said Mr. Patrick Welch,  who directed the 44th Annual O’Donohue Speech Contest.

    The contest was created following a generous gift from Mrs. Mary O’Donohue, whose son Patrick shunned public speaking at Gonzaga because of a slight speech impediment. The idea behind this gift was to create a contest for Gonzaga students to perfect the art of eloquentia perfecta-perfect eloquence. Every year at Gonzaga since 1980, around the end of the third quarter of the academic year, all grade levels participate in competing for the annual speech contest. A panel of English teachers select finalists from each grade level; the finalists then compete for the honor of being their grades best orator, which is voted on by judges from around the school community. 

    “So, we usually pick two English department members and one outside faculty member or staff member to judge. We keep it anonymous, and we try to have somebody outside the US Department judge to keep us more objective because we might always pick Shakespeare, for instance, but an outside judge might help us to recognize that maybe you can go beyond the classics,” Mr. Welch said.

    Several of the finalists shared what they took from the experience of participating in such a storied Gonzaga tradition.

    “The speech contest was an awesome opportunity to hear about so many different topics, from experiences at the McKenna Center to the politics of Congress and their work schedule. I saw it as a chance to help spread awareness about CPR, which I only learned last summer but have now seen how that three-hour course has the power to add years to a man’s life,” stated Matthew Podratsky ’25, who won first place in the junior class. 

    Freshman Edward Guerra ’27, the freshman class first place winner, also shared on what motivated him to really work hard at his performance.

    “Public speaking is something I’ve always valued, and I enjoy talking to a large audience, so I viewed this year’s O’Donoghue Speech Contest as a great way to practice my communication skills,” Guerra stated.

    Junior Jonathan Watson’25 shared what he hoped the audience would take away from his performance.

    “Over this past year, I read meditations by Marcus Aurelius, and my rationale behind my choice was that I had hoped it would benefit my classmates as much as it has benefited me; maybe I could be the person to introduce someone new. To me, if I walked out of that theater having impacted or taught only one single person one single thing, I would have considered my speech a success—no matter my final placement,” stated Jonathan Watson ’25, who won third place in the junior class.  

    Remarking on the importance of the contest in teaching students basic oration, Mr. Welch spoke of how this yearly event helps prepare students for life after Gonzaga.

    “We shouldn’t have students be so afraid to act out something in front of a crowd of people that they refuse to give a speech. Just remember, you’re much more likely to die while texting on the highway than you are from speaking in public. One of those things is a much more dangerous activity, and yet, students would text on the highway in a heartbeat and would never want to give a speech in front of other people. So why is that? It just seems like a silly irrational fear that people have that we should help students get up,” Mr. Welch said.

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