Wells Speech Contest Finalists Speak with Conviction
The annual Wells Speech Contest was held December 15 for students in Middle and Upper School with students delivering persuasive speeches on a wide variety of topics. Seven Middle School finalists and nine from the Upper School passionately shared their opinions on climate change, racism and equity, book banning, school shootings, antisemitism, internet privacy, and Trader Joe's.
English teacher Virginia Holmes addressed the importance and relevance of speechmaking after students questioned why it mattered that they write and deliver speeches when one day the act of writing itself will be replaced by technology or artificial intelligence. "To those students, I say, think bigger," said Ms. Holmes. "I've noticed that so many of the very important moments in my life have been marked by a speech." Moments like weddings, eulogies, sharing life stories with family. "If you love someone, I guarantee you will need these skills in those unforgettable milestones in your life," she said.
The winner of the Middle School Speech Contest was eighth grader Beatrix Mackil with her speech "Educating Girls." Beatrix spoke to the fact that in many countries all around the world, girls do not have the same access to education as boys, and often are deprived of what many of us take for granted. "Education is a basic human right," said Beatrix in her speech. "So why are these children being deprived of it? This deprivation is especially harmful to girls."
When girls are not allowed to be educated, they often are married very young which robs them of their childhood and their future. "If an educated girl becomes financially independent, she can break the cycle and raise herself and future generations from squalor," said Beatrix. "Education can be the key to doors that would be locked otherwise."
The Upper School winner was ninth grader Olivia Barsky with her speech "What You Deserve Right Now" which addressed the importance of museums. "Not only do museums deserve to be appreciated, but you deserve to visit a museum," said Olivia. "The time to visit a museum is now." Olivia stressed that museums may not be here forever since they are experiencing declining patronage and some museums are selling off prized works of art to private collectors just to keep their doors open.
"Museums invite us to visit the rich history of humanity by evoking feelings as we connect the wonders that form our world up close," Olivia said. "Stroll each corridor and gallery to soothe your mind, connect with history, not just by learning but by feeling, and savor each precious moment." Olivia also noted that visiting museums is good for your health and that there's a museum for everyone.
Honorable mention honors went to Carina Weksel '24 for her humorous and engaging speech "White Chocolate." With her witty delivery, Carina successfully argued that white chocolate, created in 1936 by Nestle, is indeed real chocolate, ending the questions by naysayers.
Many thanks to our three esteemed judges: Mary Esbjornson, director of the Bedford Hills Free Library; Howard Rodstein, former English teacher and now director of the Scarsdale Alternative School; and Carolyn Nielsen, special education and theater teacher, as well as Artistic Director of White Pond Community Arts/Pied Piper Youth Theater in Dutchess County.
Congratulations to all our other Middle School finalists: sixth graders Helena Klein with "The Climate Monster" and Isolda Corena with "Making an Equitable World through Conversation"; seventh graders Vivienne Stoller with "Free Our Libraries: Why Book Banning is Un-American" and Lilah Groff with "Shutting Down the Shooter"; eighth graders Peikang Hu with "AI Is Not Fully Developed and Should Not Replace Human Beings" and Lee Birch with "Breakfast: Feast of the Gods."
Congratulations also to our other Upper School finalists: ninth grader Logan Kreisberg with "Is This 1938?"; sophomores Christina Phipps with "The Importance of Self-Love" and Ava Pfluger with "Trader Joe's: Better for Your Wallet and Your Health"; junior Ellie Florin with "Sitcoms Make Us better People"; and seniors Vincent Andren with "Internet Privacy," Emma Galgano with "You're More Than a Letter," and Jasmine Zhang with "Why Gender Equality Is Unfeasible."
To all the participants, Ms. Holmes said, "I hope that the speeches you deliver today will mark this moment as a memory that you will look back on and cherish with pride. Congratulations."
Our Speech Contest judges
Middle School Speech Contest finalists delivering their speeches
Upper School Speech Contest finalists delivering their speeches