Student participants in the 2019 Achorn Prize Speaking Competition
Lincoln Academy’s annual Achorn Prize Speaking contest took place on Friday, April 12 during Lincoln Academy’s weekly community meeting. A long tradition at Lincoln Academy, the contest was established by Edward Achorn in memory of his mother, Mary Rundlett Achorn, to celebrate the art of great oratory. On Friday morning, five LA students delivered original speeches that ranged in topic from immigration to mental health, art, culture, and social media. Judges scored speeches on language and delivery, organization, and content. The 2019 Judges were English teacher Patti Sims, History teacher Brian O’Mahoney, and LA graduate Julian Frink from the Class of 2014.
Junior Cameron Nelson spoke passionately about President Trump’s border wall policy, which, Nelson believes, is grounded more in racism a than sound immigration policy. “There never has been a crisis at the border,” Nelson claimed, citing statistics about reductions in border crossings in the decades since 1990. Instead, Nelson attributes Trump’s border policy to fear mongering and racism. “One of the most infamous tactics used by despots is instilling a sense of catastrophe and distress in order to grip people’s fears and control them,” he said. Nelson concluded his speech by saying that “we, the American people, know that immigrants are the engine of change, and prejudice is not. We won’t stand for hatred.”
Senior Paige Camp gave a very personal speech about mental health care. Speaking from her own experience with depression and anxiety, Camp spoke of the importance of treating mental illness with the same respect, dignity, compassion, and resource allocation as physical illness. “We understand how the heart or pancreas works almost entirely,” she said. “The specialized cells, the electric currents, but the biggest mystery in the human body is the brain.” Talking about her own fear of being stigmatized by her peers after receiving treatment for mental illness, Camp encouraged her listeners to “think just for a second how strong someone has to be to admit they need help, or even just to get up in the morning when everything inside of you is screaming ‘no.’” She concluded, “illness isn’t cowardice.”
Junior Jojo Martin used his speech to encourage his listeners to “give jazz a chance.” Martin, who claims jazz as his favorite kind of music, said that though some listeners might find jazz difficult because it can be complex and unpredictable, that it is worth trying out. Although he explained some of the music theory behind why jazz is worthwhile, his advice to the audience was that “understanding jazz is all about listening.” In conclusion, Martin said, “Jazz is everywhere… it is diverse, and uniquely American. It celebrates Freedom. It can help you learn to listen, and may even improve your health…improvised music has the power to change the way you view the world.”
Junior Jessica Uviovo spoke about hypocrisy in social media usage among teenagers, which she defined as “pretending to have moral beliefs or values on websites and applications, while behaving contradictorily in real life.” The consequences of a culture where people make their lives look different on social media than they are in reality has the effect, according to Uvivio, of making people disconnected from each other. “We become sucked into the our virtual world of fake happiness, because it’s better than facing our reality. It’s better to just go on social media than to interact with people. So essentially we might lose our interactions with the real world, making us even more susceptible to loneliness and depression.” Uvivio ended her speech by encouraging her peers to “make our real world as spectacular as our social media world, and to build up a world that we can be proud to share, knowing that it is an honest reflection of our lives.”
The final speaker was senior Rachael Schuster, who addressed the age-old question of the nature of art. After using multiple example of types of art, including beauty found in nature, poetry and literature, music and dance, Schuster claimed that the essence of art is human self-expression, and that the medium can vary widely from artist to artist. In her final analysis, Schuster finds that the answer to the mystery is that “art is the telling of a story. The story changes, not only in different time periods, but in us, always… The very nature of art is always around is, just out of reach as an oasis in a desert… the answer to what art is lies within us, in our own stories, for those stories are what we make of them ourselves.”
After listening to these five very different speeches and scoring them based on a rubric, the judges awarded prizes to Jessica Uvivio, first place, Paige Camp, second place, and Rachael Schuster, third place. Winners received cash prizes.