Lincoln Academy’s annual Mary Rutland Alcorn Prize Speaking Competition was endowed by Edgar O. Alchorn in memory of his mother. Each year Lincoln Academy students are invited to write and deliver a speech to the Lincoln Academy Community. Speeches are judged by a panel of faculty according to forensic criteria designed for oral interpretation. Students are expected to memorize their speeches.
This year’s Alcorn Speech competition took place on Friday, May 1. Judges were all members of the Lincoln Academy faculty: Nick Azzaretti, Computer Technology Director, Dr. Robert Breckenridge, Social Studies and History teacher, and Patti Sims, English teacher. The contest is organized each year by senior English teacher Mike Walsh.
Two Lincoln Academy students, senior Alexandra Welch and junior Elise Dumont, chose to enter the competition. Their audience was the entire Lincoln Academy population of students and staff, gathered for the weekly Friday assembly in the Bailey Gymnasium.
Alexandra Welch was selected by random drawing to speak first. Her speech was entitled “Remember the Ladies,” in honor of a famous quote from a 1776 letter Abigail Adams wrote to her husband John, imploring that the new nation declaring independence “remember the ladies” in their new constitution. Ms. Welch spoke passionately about feminism, declaring that while the first wave feminist goals of gaining the vote, the right to own property, and control over their own bodies have been achieved, the second wave feminists “have yet to achieve a single one of their objectives,” which include equal pay for equal work, and the end of the objectification of women.
“A subject is active, whereas an object is passive, being acted upon… in our society men are subjects, while too often women are objects….Yet, the objectification of women has been part of our everyday lives for so long we don’t even notice it.” Still, Welch argued, there are serious repercussions for objectifying women, most notably the culture of rape that is so pervasive, especially on college campuses, today.
The second speaker was junior Elise Dumont, who gave a speech entitled, “Time for Change.” In her speech Dumont argued it is time to eliminate the penny from being produced and circulated as United States currency. She made clear arguments that for reasons of economy, productivity, time, and transaction, the penny is wasteful.
“Money exists to facilitate the transaction of goods and services,” she argued. The penny is now worth so little in real terms, that the costs of making, transporting, and transacting with pennies are no longer worthwhile. “Picking up a penny from the street and putting it in your pocket pays less than minimum wage if it takes more that 4.9 seconds,” said Dumont. Her final point was that the real defenders of the penny are the zinc companies who mine and produce the coins, concluding, “the penny is a worthless coin that wastes time and money and only benefits zinc companies.”
Both speakers are leaders on the State Champion Lincoln Academy Debate team, and both are going on to compete in national level debate events later this spring and summer. Their experience writing and delivering well-reasoned, logical arguments was clear during their speeches.
The judges selected Alexandra Welch as the 2015 winner, with Elise Dumont as runner up. Since there were only two competitors in this year’s Mary Rutland Alchorn Prize Speaking Contest, both entrants will win cash prizes thanks to the Alchorn endowment.
The faculty judges explained their decision this way: “‘Remember the Ladies’ balanced passion and reason, persuasively and artfully. We gave Alex first place by consensus. That in no way diminishes Elise’s speech, which made a strong case for retiring the US penny from circulation. Both Alex and Elise are winners in our estimation, and both received substantial cash prizes. Outstanding!”