I’ve evaluated many speeches in my 10 years as a member of Toastmasters International, but few speakers have taught me as many lessons as the 10 elementary and middle school students I judged last month in the Orange County 4-H Tropicana Public Speaking Contest.
The fresh-faced fourth, fifth and sixth graders—three boys and seven girls—spoke on a wide range of topics, from war and peace to basketball and Australia. Connor explained what it’s like to be a twin, Taylor revealed how it feels to be the natural-born child in a family who cares for foster children and Marisol shared the joys of being a hearing child with deaf parents.
The teachers, family members and volunteers in the audience were impressed. They laughed, were in awe and were proud of the youth who gave voice to their hopes, dreams and family values. As one of the contest judges, I evaluated each speaker on their use of language, speech delivery and choice of topic. In turn, each speaker gave me a pearl of their wisdom.
Brooke Sheaf, who won the middle school contest, delivered one of the most powerful messages—the best way to overcome your fear is to jump in with both feet! Brooke overcame her fear of swimming by jumping into the deep end of the pool. What’s your biggest fear?