The Scituation

Scituate High School's student newspaper

The Scituation

The Scituation


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Voice of Democracy Speech Competition Sets Record at SHS

James (Quinn) DeCourcey, Jane Ryan, Liah Brennan, Maeve Smith, David Murphy, and Claire Murray were finalists for this year’s local VFW Voice of Democracy speech competition

Each year, Scituate High School students participate in the Voice of Democracy speech competition sponsored by the local VFW Auxiliary. This year, a record number of students–70 in total–submitted written speeches. After six speeches were chosen for a final round of competition at SHS, held on Monday, October 30th, four speeches were selected to move on to the district level. From there, one speech, delivered by SHS senior David Murphy, was selected for the state-level competition.

At the school level, the contest’s final round was judged by SHS English teacher Christina Dimitri, Assistant Superintendent Heidi Driscoll, Assistant Principal Lisa Kirk, and a representative from the VFW Auxiliary, Deborah Young. Students presented five-minute speeches that answered the question, “What are the greatest attributes of our democracy?” Junior James (Quinn) DeCourcey and senior David Murphy were tied for third place. Junior Liah Brennan placed second, and junior Jane Ryan received first place.

Although Ryan’s speech earned top honors in Scituate, all four speeches were submitted (electronically) to the district-level competition. From there, Murphy’s speech was selected for the state-level competition, an impressive distinction. Murphy said that while writing the speech only took a few hours, he spent several weeks deciding what to write about, simplifying the broad question to what he truly believes. Ultimately, his speech emphasized imagery and voice inflection to make an impact.

According to Murphy, the content of his speech was developed based on his experience taking AP Government. Learning more about the country’s founding ideals deepened his appreciation for American democracy. Murphy said he felt “especially grateful” to write about the government when “our country feels so divided and so hopeless about democracy.”

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Murphy was honored to be chosen as a state finalist, commenting that he has “immense respect” for the VFW and a newfound gratitude for “those who dedicate their lives to defending such rights.”

Likewise, DeCourcey’s speech paid respect to his grandfather, who is a Vietnam War veteran. Alluding to the 1969 U.S. Supreme Court landmark decision Tinker v. Des Moines, DeCourcey emphasized the value of the First Amendment. His allusion to this historic case “deeply impressed” his English teacher, Catherine Hall, who is the faculty advisor for the school newspaper. When writing about democracy, DeCourcey said its complexities make it difficult to “pull out just a couple of its most important aspects.” However, he chose to write about the fundamental values of elected representation and civic engagement in American democracy. He outlined the importance of participation and communication between civilians and their government.

Brennan said she wrote her speech after spending two hours on the phone with her grandfather, who is a military veteran. Her speech emphasized the freedoms she enjoys that women in other countries can not. As she is currently taking AP Language and Composition, Brennan said she wanted to use repetition to enhance her writing. She also tried to connect to her audience by appealing to their emotions so they would be “more apt to listen.”

Earning the highest score in the SHS competition, Ryan delivered a moving and insightful speech that emphasized what she “appreciates about our democracy.” She also “referenced current events which impact it.” With such a wide range of “important aspects of democracy,” Ryan admitted choosing what to include in her speech was difficult. Ultimately, she focused on encouraging people to participate in the election process, using diction and tone to emphasize key points. Ryan was excited to be a school finalist, commenting, “It was a great opportunity to share my voice and improve my speaking skills.”

Ryan, Brennan, and DeCourcey all credited Hall with helping them prepare for the competition by having them present their speeches to her English classes, even when they “really didn’t want to.” After the competition, Hall’s students used Ryan’s speech during a rhetorical analysis exercise.