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Junior Jonathan Church presents his speech at the Edward Everett Oratory Com­pe­tition Tuesday in Phillips Audi­torium.

Anders Kiledal | Col­legian

Junior Jonathan Church took first place at the annual Edward Everett Oratory Com­pe­tition Tuesday, March 8.

Five finalists each delivered a ten-minute speech on the topic “Debate or Con­ver­sation? Liberty and Civility in Campus Dis­course.” Freshman Ryan Murphy placed second, fol­lowed by freshman Joshua Hoover. The first, second, and third place winners received $3,000, $2,000, and $1,000, respec­tively.

Freshman Katie Hillery and senior Josiah Lip­pencott also com­peted. Senior Rachael Hille was the alternate, a sixth place finalist who would have per­formed had another com­petitor been unable.

“This year was one of the best I’ve seen,” said College Pres­ident Larry Arnn, who has judged the com­pe­tition since it began 16 years ago.

Arnn — along with edu­cator, actress, and writer Jen­nifer Wiel and busi­nessman and Repub­lican Michigan State Rep. Eric Leutheuser — judged the essayists.

According to Pro­fessor of Speech Kirstin Kiledal, the flow of Church’s logic stood out to the judges.

Church, a finalist last year, opened his speech by reen­acting the con­frontation between an angry Yale student and pro­fessor Nicholas Chris­takis. Last fall, stu­dents ver­bally attacked the Yale pro­fessor after his wife sug­gested in an email that stu­dents should be able to choose Hal­loween cos­tumes without admin­is­trative guidance.

Church argued emotion and appeals to force clouded the stu­dents’ argument. Using points from Alasdair MacIntyre’s “After Virtue,” Church explained that campus debate often degrades into protest because incom­patible moral premises set up irrec­on­cilable argu­ments.

Murphy struc­tured her speech around the acronym TALK: target, advancement, liberty, and keep. She dis­cussed the target of edu­cation, the advancement of edu­cation through free speech, the current state of liberty and how it has eroded, and keeping liberty and civility in campus dis­course.

“I go to college to prepare for the real world, not to be coddled,” she said.

Kiledal said the judges liked the frame of her argument and the ease of her delivery.

Hoover empha­sized the impor­tance of avoiding char­acter attacks but being willing to dis­agree with one another. Hoover’s sin­cerity impressed the judges, Kiledal said. To illus­trate the impor­tance of expressing unpopular truths, Hoover drew evi­dence from Saudi Arabian dis­sident and activist Raif Badawi.

“Today, we’re afraid. We’re afraid of words,” Hoover said.  “That’s the truth.”

Nearly 70 stu­dents, speech finalists from the Hillsdale Academy, and others attended the com­pe­tition.

During her entire speech, Hillery’s micro­phone made no sound. Many attendees were won­dering why no one tried to fix the mal­function, Kiledal said.

Because you can’t replay a speech, it would have been dis­ruptive to correct the problem once Hillery had begun speaking, Kiledal explained, adding that last year, a finalist wrenched his mic off after it con­tinued to spike throughout his speech. Learning how to create control is part of the speaking process, she said.

“Katie handled it bril­liantly,” Kiledal said.