The annual Optimist Oratorical Contest by the Palisades Optimist Club was held at the Palisades Lutheran Church on March 27. Nine students wrote an original five-minute speech on “What the World Gains from Optimism.”
When the judging was completed, Palisades High School freshman Tobias Scott was first, classmate Judith Zhang was second and PaliHi sophomore Keren Dror third.
The contest, which started in 1928 by Optimist Club International, is designed for youth to gain experience in public speaking and to provide them with the opportunity to compete for college scholarships. The winner of the district competition receives a $2,500 scholarship, the International Regional Competition winner receives $5,000 and the chance to compete at the World Championships for $15,000.
To start the contest, students drew a number to decide order of presentation. Then, Revere students Siddhartha Shen- drikar, Michael Bent, David Tofer, Gracie Binder and Sarah Slavin; Loyola student Dashiell Flynn; and PaliHi’s Dror, Scott and Zhang did their best to present their views of optimism to the more than 50 family, friends and Pacific Palisades Optimist Club members present in the audience.
Serving as emcee was last year’s winner Daniel Gottesman, a junior at Palisades High School, who not only won locally, but also captured the Zone and District contests to be the first local contestant to compete at the World Championships in St. Louis Missouri. “He was brilliant as our emcee,” said Palisadian Susie DeWeese, the 2017 Optimist oratorical chair.
DeWeese not only organized the event and works with contestants, but also found judges for the contest. Maria Carmean (who owned a temporary staffing company, until her retirement), realtor Dolly Niemann and Angela Vassallo, who is the Director of Infection Control/Epidemiology at Providence Saint John’s Health Center.
Contestants were scored on poise, content of speech, overall effectiveness, delivery and presentation. Penalties were incurred when a contestant failed to announce the official topic, failed to identify non-original material, used props and went over or under the time limit.
“Picking the top three was difficult, because the entrants were all outstanding,” the judges said.
Scott won $150 and the opportunity to compete at the district level. Zhang received $100 for second place, and Dror won third and $50.