Over two hundred and thirty students and coaches traveled from across the globe to compete in the International Independent Schools’ Public Speaking Competition hosted by Deerfield on October 1 – 4, 2009. Katie Walker ’10, Charles Giannini ’11, and Grace Mermel ’12 represented Deerfield. Giannini competed in many events, including After-Dinner speaking.
“My after-dinner speech (reprinted on page 3 of this issue), “The Center for the Rehab of Disgraced Politicians” was something I came up with over the summer when former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was trying to get his own reality television show. However, I wrote my speech six days before the event and I diligently tried to memorize it with the help of my friends throughout the week. I knew it, but I didn’t know it word for word, allowing me to be comfortable, but not too nervous.” Giannini qualified for, and is planning to attend, the World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships in Lithuania this coming spring.
Mermel competed in public speaking events, including interpretive reading. She explained, “Interpretative reading is when you read seven to thirteen minutes aloud from a book. I chose a book that sparked my interest, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I started reading it all aloud to myself the week of the debate, but had chosen it earlier.”
Walker commented on her overall experience by saying, “It was so much fun, getting to know people from all over the world. I was so impressed when sitting in the room listening to them speak. It was amazing to have the opportunity to see how talented some people really are.”
However, it was not all intense competition. On Saturday night, a techno dance took place in the Kravis Room and the Greer was full of students from across the globe. When asked how the dance was going, Alfonso Velasco ’11, the DJ for the night, smiled and gave a thumbs up.
Mathematics teacher Sean Keller, the faculty member on duty in the Greer, said, “It is a terrific opportunity for students to chat with other students their age from around the world, particularly students involved in an enterprise they may not have known as much about.”
Kasaluchi Mmegwa from the Federal Republic of Nigeria was watching television in the Greer with a group of visiting debaters and Deerfield students. “My most exciting moment was making my persuasive speech for the first time in the Koch Center.” When asked how he prepared his speech on rural African development, he responded, “I spent a year analyzing the news and went to some parliamentary debates. Then, I spent three months writing my speech and then I continued to practice it.”
Debate Coordinator and Philosophy and Religious Studies Department Chair Michael O’Donnell reflected, “The Deerfield community really stepped up and filled their roles admirably, not just a couple people, but hundreds of members of the community: students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and local neighbors.”
The effort and planning put in by the community did not go unnoticed. Many visitors commented on how they were welcomed into the community and their enjoyable weekend, for some their first time in the United States.
A coach from Eton College (UK) wrote in a thank you letter, “For our group of students, it was one of the most educationally beneficial things they will have done in their school careers. I think, for all of us, the regret at having to leave so soon the loving yet scholarly warmth of the community at Deerfield will turn into happy memories that will sustain us until our next visit.”