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Rotary Youth Speaks 2018

Posted: 19th January 2018

The first rounds of the 2018 Rotary ‘Youth Speaks’ public speaking competitions are now over and many thanks to members of Oxford Rotary, Oxford Isis Rotary, Oxford North Rotary and Woodstock and Kidlington Rotary clubs for their support, this and every year, in making this opportunity happen.

The reality is that every single team that is heard on one of these evenings wins, because their message is heard, received and appreciated, but we are particularly proud this year as Wychwood have been placed as runners up in the Intermediate competition and winners in the Senior competition.

For the seniors, taking time out of their GCSE mock examinations, Anaïs Arroyo’s speech ‘Our voices for their voices’ was a powerful revelation of the impact that her work experience with ‘Sisters for Change’ had on her when she realised the actual plight of millions of women across the world without access to justice. Redefining feminism, she considered that equality in the world needs to be between genders and within gender groups, regardless of race, religion or socio economic group. Justice, she believes, ‘is the pot of gold, if you like, at the end of the rainbow.’ Her passion for the topic came through in her poised, understated delivery, and as the judges said, she ‘owned the topic’ confidently. This was powerfully authentic, driven by personal experience and then intelligent reflection. Very Anaïs! A speech that was never really intended for the Youth Speaks stage, we were thrilled that her voice, speaking for ‘their voices’ was heard, and will be heard again in the next round.

Her able support team with sister Ella Arroyo as Chairperson and Georgie Lagden as proposer of thanks, neither strangers to the stage, and both past Intermediate performers, was extremely impressive. This is a powerhouse to be reckoned with!

In the Intermediate competition, Anuoluwa Sofoluwe spoke on the robotic revolution with her terrifying speech ‘Humans need not apply’, in which she used the inspired analogy of horses, whose population peaked in 1916 and then fell significantly on account of the invention, and thereafter the increased accessibility of the motor car, to demonstrate the human dilemma of the moment. We are currently doing jobs that either are already, or shortly will be, done by robots, and where will that leave young people in a few years? Informing her audience of Baxter, the all-purpose computer – the prototype, ‘like the original apple mackintosh’, she revealed the reality of everything from robotic baristas to robotic musical composers, already better than us. Could humans ever really be obsolete?


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Ably assisted by chairperson Olivia Zamora de la Pena and proposer of thanks, Sophie Solovieva, the evening was extended by the judge’s lengthy, and apparently split decision. They came very close to winning, but were thrilled with second place, perhaps a sobering metaphor of how humans may need to perceive their lot, a respectable second, when the robot revolution has become the norm…

Tilly Elliston’s amusing, enthusiastic and frankly exhausting speech on ‘Number 1′, on the value of competition, supported by chair Mirabella Haigh and proposer of thanks Joey Li was also deemed ‘very strong’ by the judges. Finally, this year we were thrilled to take a third team, as the quality of performance across the LTs (year 9) was so high this year. Olivia Knowles spoke knowledgably and thoughtfully on the history of art, with an informed, whistle-stop tour through the ages, ultimately considering the inability of an average young person to really value ideas behind some of the more obscure modern installations, in her presentation ‘What more is there to say?’ She considered reasons for falling visitor numbers to art galleries, ultimately questioning how the art of this generation will be remembered. Her support was Elfie Field as Chair and Rosie Schofield as the Proposer of Thanks. In the end there was nothing left to say!

Well done to these nine girls but also to the whole form who in the first instance worked so hard in English lessons, preparing speeches and pushing the standard and quality of the work.