On Wednesday, March 25, at 6 p.m. we had an Oratorical contest right here in the Elm Street School Gym. I got a chance to speak to the director of the Optimist club. Here are some things I asked or that we talked about.

“This is a Tri-Town Optimist Club of Mechanic Falls, Minot, and Poland. It is the fourth year of the Oratorical Contest.” He explained, “Approximately 20 students from Mechanic Falls, Minot, and Poland give a four to five minute speech entitled, “To Me Optimism is…” competing for medallions. A boy and a girl winner are chosen and will compete in Albany, New York, on May 17 for $1,500 college scholarships each. Chairman of the Oratorical Contest is Carl Beckett. Judges were: Nancy Watson, Yvon Gilbert, and Sue Verrill.”

The student adviser was Karen Downing, Gifted and Talented teacher at Elm Street School. Sherri Downing, Minot and Ell Fanus, Poland were the advisers at their schools.

“How were they scored?” I asked.

“Poise, content of speech, delivery and presentation, and overall effectiveness. Some penalties are failure to announce the official topic, failure to announce non original material, they can’t use props, and they must stay between four and five minutes. They can’t tell who they are also.”

“What’s the Optimist Club like?”

“The Optimist Club was formed to help boys and girls in the communities of Mechanic Falls, Minot, and Poland. Along with the Oratorical Contest, it sponsors a bike rodeo, essay contest, school dances, third grade dictionaries,and the future skate park. We meet once a month from 12-1 at the Mechanic Falls Municipal building. The club has approximately 20 members.”

The night of the Oratorical Contest, I was there. So many people performed so many different kinds of speeches. Most of them were absolutely stunning, just unbelievably good. They were so different, some using voice and some using different kinds of examples and hand gestures.

The winners were sixth grader, Brooke Whalen, and seventh grader, Nigel Williams. They will be traveling to Albany on May 16. Everybody did really good.

Lots of friends and family showed up to support their young entrants. Everybody who was there enjoyed hearing everybody’s point of view about optimism, including my family and I.


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