The Junior Speech is a long-standing Academy Tradition with a continued purpose. (Pixabay)
Exiting the theater this past Thursday, January 17, I know I wasn’t the only Academy student moved by the four speeches I had just listened to.
And I also know that this wasn’t the first time I had left Schoedinger feeling a little more compassionate.
I was welcomed to the tradition of Academy Junior Speeches a couple years ago as a wide-eyed freshman, excited to finally see what this event was all about, and slightly antsy knowing that in no time I would be the one seated in one of the four wooden chairs, next in line to speak to hundreds.
What I quickly gathered as I took my seat for my first round was that this truly was the “real deal,” and by the time my name would be called a couple years from then. Having the ability to speak comfortably in front of my peers and teachers was a skill that I would certainly want to have.
But since the time that has passed since my classmates’ and my introduction to the Thursday tradition a couple years ago, the idea of the speech being a “requirement” is one that has completely been remolded before my eyes.
Public speaking is a required class in many public schools across the country, and for good reason. Having the ability to engage a crowd and deliver a message is an essential skill in jobs requiring leadership, so garnering this ability as a young adult is something that should continue to be valued.
It’s a skill that requires diligence and practice, and as much of a pain it is for many, one that strikes fear and spikes anxiety just over the thought of it, the Junior Speech is at best looked at as a privilege for those who choose to embrace it for what it is.
Not too often do teenagers get the chance to speak in front of their friends, family, and faculty about something they are truly passionate about.
We hear anything and everything about speech week in the years that come before, and all too often we hear about “just getting through,” the week.
And as difficult a week as it was, (And in retrospect, there never really is a “convenient” time.), by Thursday morning upon arrival at school, I was nothing but excited to have the opportunity to have the chance to spread a message via the best platform possible.
After all, there is a reason that the most commonly stated advice for future students in Mr. Kirk’s reflection email is not to be so nervous for the speech.
Few places exist where we could hear countless students speak to an entire student body and faculty about something deep and personal to them and where you could feel the heartwarming reception that students receive for opening themselves up.
From the loud cheers as they walk up on stage to the invariable silence that follows as they are called to the podiu, to the high fives from Mr. Kirk and the hugs that come after, the warmth and welcome of the entire event is indicative of our student body as a whole.
You can feel the gravity in the room pull to the speaker because at the end of the day each and every student in the audience has either gone through the process or will in the future.
There is no Academy tradition like this one to spread a message.