SHS Students Compete in Voice of Democracy Speech Contest

Speeches will be showcased on November 10th during H-Block


Pictured from left to right, this year’s Voice of Democracy speech contestants: Tricia Gibbons, Adeline Oliver, David Murphy, Victor Bowker, and Taylor MacFaden. Anna Kelly (far right) organized the event at SHS.

Annika McCanne, Opinion Editor

On Thursday, November 10th, students will gather in the Performing Arts Center during H-Block (1:11-1:39 PM) to watch their classmates present speeches they crafted to answer the question for this year’s Voice of Democracy speech competition: “Why is the Veteran Important?”

Last week, on Thursday, November 3rd, six local judges selected three finalists from the following SHS applicants: senior Victor Bowker, junior Adeline Oliver, freshman Tricia Gibbons, junior David Murphy and junior Taylor MacFaden. A sixth speech from Norwell’s Nicholas Sadowski was also included in the competition. 

This event was put organized by SHS senior Anna Kelly in tandem with the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). Despite college deadlines, homecoming, and AP course loads, Kelly took on the planning and execution of a speech contest out of her commitment to enriching the community. Saying she felt compelled to “give people the opportunities [she] wished [she] had when [she]  was younger,” Kelly is involved in several extra-curricular activities, including Model UN, where she is the co-president. Kelly has spent her four years at SHS perfecting her public speaking abilities. Her hard work paid off, as she recently gained an honorable mention for best delegate for her committee.

Explaining that the Voice of Democracy speech competition is a way for “students’ voices to be expressed–especially in a new forum,” Kelly stated that ultimately she hoped to “foster a better connection between the students and the community as a whole.” After witnessing a room full of passionate judges and contestants united by a common love for their country and those who fought to preserve freedom, it was clear she had done just that. 

Kelly said the six judges are exceptional community members who feel the same commitment to honoring veterans and fostering confidence in public speaking. Among the participating judges, Lisa Rafferty, a professional playwright who teaches at Bridgewater State University, gave the students feedback on their public speaking skills along with some helpful insight on how to be more effective at capturing an audience. She encouraged the contestants to take pride in their work and “honor” their words. Rafferty also volunteered to help run a workshop on public speaking prior to the next competition, a great opportunity for SHS students.

SPS assistant superintendent Heidi Driscoll also judged the event and stated she “loves to be invited to classrooms” to engage with students. The Voice of Democracy competition was especially meaningful to her because she participated in a similar contest when she was in high school. 

This year’s SHS contestants chose to enter the competition without being prompted by a teacher or the lure of extra credit. According to junior Taylor MacFaden, when she heard about the contest, something inside of her told her to do it. MacFaden said her great-grandfather was the recipient of the Purple Heart, and although she never met him, she knew her family would want her to enter to honor his service.  This passion and drive is what Anna Kelly and many others at SHS strive to exemplify.

This year, the VFW is offering $100, $75, and $50 prizes respectively for first, second and third place. In addition, Kelly applied for a grant through SHORE, and was able to secure prize money for a series of three speech competitions at SHS during the academic year. The winner of the Voice of Democracy speech competition will also have the opportunity to continue to compete at the district and potentially state levels. 

Following the judges’ deliberation, the finalists were chosen: Junior Taylor MacFaden was awarded first place. Senior Victor Bowker and junior David Murphy tied for second place.

All three finalists will present their speeches to the public, so head to the Performing Arts Center at 1:10 PM on November 10th to hear these fantastic speeches for yourself and support the hard work and dedication from everyone involved!