Theodore Roosevelt Public Speaking Contest

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Date: June 22, 2009
Contact: Mindi Rambo, 212-668-2208

Students Shine at Theodore Roosevelt Public Speaking Contest

New York, NY – Most people would rather be shot than give a speech to an audience full of strangers. Theodore Roosevelt managed to do both in a single day.

Roosevelt passionately believed in the importance of speaking persuasively to an audience and he proved it on Oct. 14, 1912. He had been traveling in an open car to a campaign stop in Milwaukee when he was approached by a man who shot and wounded him. After delivering his would-be assassin to the police, Roosevelt declined to be treated and instead gave a 90-minute speech to his supporters before exiting the stage and submitting to treatment for his wound.

In that spirit, if not those conditions, 14 high school students arrived at Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site on May 28, 2009 for the finals of the Theodore Roosevelt Public Speaking Contest, which is organized annually by the Theodore Roosevelt Association (TRA).

Each student stood before a panel of judges and an audience of their coaches and peers while giving his or her 5-minute speech. Some focused on Roosevelt’s credentials as a conservationist and naturalist, others on his crusade to reform institutions so they better served the public good – the NYC Police Department, big business, and even government itself. And still others explored facets of Roosevelt’s personality such as his tremendous will, which allowed him to overcome conditions that most would have called insurmountable.

Following the deliberations, the judges praised the skill of all the contestants and lamented that each year their job becomes much harder and the caliber of the participants continues to increase. This year Christina Herrman of The Bronx School of Science placed third, taking home a $500 TRA scholarship. Ajay Seebon of Richmond Hill High School received a $1,000 TRA scholarship for his second place finish, and Joseph LaBarbara of Tottenville High School placed first to take home a $2,000 TRA scholarship. LaBarbara was also awarded the first ever summer internship offered to a Theodore Roosevelt Public Speaking Contest winner by the National Park Service.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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