Students competed for the Lewis Orator Prize in a speaking competition on the topic of happiness on Thursday, February 21.
Sophomore Ethan So received first place in the competition, followed by senior Rohan Chaudhari and first-year Sahil Lalwani. So’s name is thus engraved on the Lewis Prize plaque. Each of the three top winners received a cash prize in the form of a check. First-year Marisa Modugno also competed.
“I have been involved in debate and public speaking for over five years and it is difficult to get recognition. It is very rewarding to receive something after investing so much time into it,” So said.
Every year the speech is based on a one-word prompt which must be used in the speech. This year, each competitor prepared a five to seven-minute speech on the topic of happiness. Each speech was scored by Visiting Writing and Rhetoric Lecturer Megan Varney on six categories: adaptation, organization, development, delivery, style and distinction. Each category was evaluated from one to five points, and the overall score was an average of each category’s score. A competitor was excluded if they received under a two in any one category. Speeches were also penalized for exceeding the time limit.
So’s speech focused on his personal experiences as an Asian-American and how he experienced happiness differently in America and Hong Kong. So said he led a happier life in Hong Kong because he did not face the same attention for race as he did as a student in America, emphasizing the importance of space in personal happiness. Space controls happiness, he said, but people control space; one can create inclusive spaces to maximize happiness for diverse groups of people.
“For this competition, I [decided] between a speech about happiness through empathy or space as happiness. Once decided, I [expanded] the speech and then practice delivery. I prefer practicing until the speech feels natural to me so I can avoid looking at my notes and be interesting to the audience,” So said.
In Chaudhari’s speech, he compared two cultural definitions of happiness that are quite different: that of his home city of Calcutta, India and that of Colgate. The vi- sion of happiness he experienced in Calcutta is much less material based than the “Western” perspective he encounters at Colgate and more westernized cities like Delhi and Mumbai, Chaudhari said. Though he recognized his image of Calcutta as old and traditional may be somewhat romanticized, he said happiness in Calcutta was more dependent on simpler pleasures. Depression, he explained, is a gap between what an individual finds happiness in and what culture defines happiness to be.
Lalwani focused on the external projection of happiness and how harmful it can be to attribute all of one’s happiness to a single dream, friend or job. He said happiness is too dependent on attachment, making internal reflection and true happiness nearly impossible. Particularly in college environments, students often assume that what makes others happy will create happiness for them without any deeper internal reflection.
The Lewis Orator Prize was established in 1867 with a gift of $1,000 by Professor John James Lewis. The prize was established in honor of his brother, George Lewis. John James Lewis was a logic and English literature professor at Colgate until 1871, at which point he turned his focus to English literature, civil history and oratory classes.
The competition was organized by sophomore and Debate Society’s On-Campus Events Coordinator Aaron Tanaka and the Colgate Debate Society. Tanaka was elected to his position by the Colgate Debate Society last year. His job entails running three speaking competitions throughout the year: the Kingsford Prize for Public Speaking, the Lewis Orator Prize and the Stevenson Prize for Expository Speaking.
“Our goal with these speaking competitions is to provide incentive and a place in which the Colgate student body can practice public speaking. While the competitions may seem daunting, we want to give Colgate students the ability to overcome their stage fright by participating,” Tanaka said.
The Colgate Debate Society is hosting the Colgate Open debate tournament from March 30 to 31. Students from Universities across the world like Cambridge, Oxford and Harvard compete in the competition.
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