Youth Speaks District Winners 2022

After an enforced gap of two years of lockdown, we were delighted to be back on stage on Sunday 8 May staging the District Final at Senior level – ages 14-17 – in this wonderful public speaking competition.

Each team chooses what they wish to feature – mostly with an eye on topical issues - and this year they ranged from the ethics on rescuing migrants crossing the channel, through the Barbie doll as a role model, the impact of television on young minds to the presence of monuments to past figureheads on our streets.  Teams of three were led by their Chair, with a Proposer talking in favour of the motion, and a second Speaker talking against.

Team ages ranged from 13 to 17.  They choose and research their topic, and then they stand on stage and present to an audience unknown to them, within a time span of fifteen minutes.  As always, the standards were very high, and as our judges regularly say, all come out winners from the experiences gained. 
Of course in any competition there is a chosen winner, and this year the team trophy was taken by Worth School from Turners Hill, sponsored by the Rotary Club of East Grinstead Meridien.  

Their topic examined the ethical arguments for and against rescuing ‘undocumented’ and commercial migrants crossing the seas, the Channel and the Mediterranean, in bad conditions and unsafe boats.  Many such attempts result in loss of life.  Does rescuing and bringing to safety some encourage others to put their lives at risk to attempt the crossing, or can one argue in favour of sacrificing some lives in the hope of saving many more, if letting some perish helps discourage a larger number from taking the risk.  Discussing Cant and Machiavellian principles, the team gave a confident and engaging performance, certainly making us think on this difficult subject.

In the Finals, there are also awards for the ‘Best’ individual performance in each role, and this showed the honours spread.  St John’s from Leatherhead picked up the ‘Best Chair’ for a very professional and confident performance in introducing his team and winding up the debate on the place of monuments to perhaps controversial figures remaining on public display or not. We cannot and should not re-write history, his team discussed, but should modern values and feelings be taken into account, moving such figures to a museum whilst encouraging debate and understanding, rather than leaving them on display to perhaps offend.

Next, the two ‘Best Speaker’ awards went to the girls of Manor House School, Bookham.   Each put forward very well balanced views on the influences on young girls of the long-standing and highly popular Barbie Dolls.  Is the very unreal figure of Barbie an unrealistic role model, focussing on image and promoting consumerism, or has she been developed to be a valuable learning tool as well as toy for the younger generation.

We look forward to seeing many of these students back with us for next year’s competition, and give a final ‘thank-you’ to the teams’ teachers, parents and mentors for the huge part they play in bringing the teams on stage with us.

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