(Pictured: First place winner Gaynell Payne. Photo courtesy of Gaynell Payne.)
(Pictured: Second place winner Lauren Weber. Photo courtesy of Lauren Weber.)
By: Blake Bouza, Assistant Editor
Volunteer State Community College hosted its annual Hal Ramer Oratorical Contest on Wednesday, April 13.
Out of the 11 contestants, there were three winners. Gaynell Payne came in first place with Lauren Weber and Dustin Hodges coming in second and third place, respectively.
The event was chaired by Dr. Melva Black, Instructor of Communication, and judged by three impartial judges.
“What’s funny is that I am comfortable with standing up and addressing a lot of people informally. I’m not comfortable with giving a memorized speech,” said Payne.
She gave a persuasive speech in favor of legalizing medical marijuana and reclassifying it from a Schedule I drug, which prohibits research.
“As an advocate for special needs and a mother to a special needs child, this is a very important and personal topic to me. It’s heartbreaking and grossly unfair that such an effective treatment is being kept from those who need it,” Payne said.
Payne, a first year returning adult student majoring in English, said she could see herself doing something like this again if it is for something important.
Weber, who said she is very comfortable with public speaking, said she was nervous before the competition.
“Dr. Black asked me exactly a week before this competition to join. What made my nerves even worse was the fact that when I do things like this I do them to win and expect nothing but excellence,” said Weber.
Weber’s speech about the Peace Corps was made with the hopes of making the audience active participants whether by donating time or money to the organization.
“I just happened to be lucky enough to speak on this nonprofit. I felt as if I was rambling while I was delivering my speech and I was just praying that I was glorifying God the entire time,” Weber said.
Weber, a sophomore at Vol State who plans on attending seminary school, said she could see herself doing something like this again and that it was a good opportunity to grow as a public speaker.
Hodges, a political science major, missed the sign up date for last year’s competition, so he took steps to ensure he would not make the same mistake this time around.
“Public speaking has come very naturally to me in college, like most people I had a small fear of talking in front of groups of any size for many years,” said Hodges.
Hodges’ involvement with numerous honor societies and the College Republicans club on campus gave him the opportunity to overcome his fear.
The main point in Hodges speech was America’s future. “With all the controversy in recent years, people shooting at cops, etc., we need to remember we are all simply Americans. We are not separated into little boxes on a form. We are all Americans. After major tragedies like Pearl Harbor and 9/11 everyone forgot their differences and came together as one, we shouldn’t need a major tragedy to remind us we are all the same,” he said.
“Not voting is like slapping Plato, Jefferson and MLK in the face, and saying ‘Your Efforts Were Pointless,’” Hodges said in his speech.
Of the contest, Black said that they all “had a blast.”