The oratory competition was this past weekend and it was both exhilerating and surreal. We teamed with the Middle School improv troupe, who provided breaks between batches of speakers. They were quite good and a nice balance to speeches about slavery, racism, revolution and ALS. I need to acknowledge that the Fine Arts department at school deserves a huge thank you. The improv team adjusted their performance schedule and head of the dcepartment set the stage and wrangled electronics so a student who couldn't be there for the competition could compete. I blessed by my collegues.
It was exhilerating in that, in the end, it was about the 15 speakers. To say I was blown away was an understatement. There were a few kids I knew would do well, and they did. There were several others who I wasn't sure about who certainly rose to the occasion. Even the statistically last speaker was competative. I sat there thanking my lucky stars that I wasn't the judge.
The judges, a college professor and news anchor, kept asking me, "okay, these kids are 13-14, right?" Yup. For many of the students, it was literally the first time speaking in front of an audience.
As the competition ended, I had my list of who should be in the top group. I was curious to see how the judges weighed in. They mirrored my list of finalists, but not the order I had them. Even they had different orders. In the end, the first representative of the school to Washington DC was clear but the second spot had a three-way tie! Three-way tie! Actually, the top seven finishers finished within three points of each other.
So here is where the surreal kicked in. You can't have a sudden death round in oratory, so we had announced that ties would be broken by random means. In my pocket all afternoon was a pair of dice, and so, the three second place finishers shot craps for the last spot. Two dice--highest score in one shot. The first roll was a seven. The second speaker's roll was ... also a seven. Really?!?! The last speaker rolled ... an eight. The reality is that any of these students would do the school proud at Ford's Theater so its a win win for me but ... dice to decide a speak competition? I suppose there are worse ways.