Optimist Oratorical Contest Draws 9 Contestants

Even though Covid-19 took away the live version of the Palisades Optimist Club Oratorical Contest, nine contestants competed via Zoom in early April.

This year’s contest theme was “Just Image a World Without Boundaries” and each student wrote and delivered a speech that was required to last between four and five minutes.

Once again Susie DeWeese, whose husband Rick is this year’s Optimist Club president, organized the contest, worked with contestants and located judges.

The contest, which is open to public and private schools, included students from Paul Revere Middle School and Palisades High School. They were Julia Abbot, Shawna Ashley, Michael Brent, Anirudh Chatterjae, Selene Lam, Kyra Morris, Spencer Rodman, Amrita Seikhorn and Carter Yearn.

The speeches and delivery were judged by Pacific Palisades resident Fran Flanagan, Liliana Cerilo of West Los Angeles and Lorna Riley, who hails from San Diego.

The local contest winner was Julia Abbot with Michael Brent second. Third place was Selene Lam and fourth went to Carter Yearn. These students then advanced to the District contest, which was also held via Zoom.

At that level, Selene Lam was the highest placing local student with a second-place finish.

Contestants were scored on poise, content of speech, overall effectiveness, delivery and presentation. Penalties were incurred when a contestant failed to announce the official topic, failed to identify non-original material, used props and went over or under the time limit.

The contest, which started in 1928, is designed for youth to gain experience in public speaking and to provide them with the opportunity to compete for college scholarships. The winner of the district competition receives a $2,500 scholarship, the International Regional Competition winner receives $5,000 and the chance to compete at the World Championships for $15,000.

“We were very proud of the students under these difficult circumstances,” Susie DeWeese said. “Hopefully all will return next year to compete again – and maybe we will once again have a regular contest.”

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