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Team member freshman Nathaniel Turtel. Madeline Barry | Collegian
Team member freshman Nathaniel Turtel. Madeline Barry | Col­legian

In less than two minutes, freshman Nathaniel Turtel had pre­pared a five-minute speech spanning cen­turies of history based on a single quote on a yellow strip of paper.

Turtel, a member of Hillsdale College’s speech team, was a finalist in two events at the Fall Michigan Inter­col­le­giate Speech League Tour­nament that Hillsdale held Sat­urday in Lane Hall. Eastern Michigan Uni­versity took first place in the team sweep­stakes.

Turtel took third place in extem­po­ra­neous and fourth in impromptu on Sat­urday. He was the only member to compete because the event was being held at Hillsdale, sophomore Peter Seeley said.

Turtel’s pre­lim­inary round speech on his­torical figures was based on a John D. Rock­e­feller quote: “Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.”

Taking a position against Rock­e­feller, he pre­pared and delivered a speech in seven minutes, using Napoleon Bona­parte, Benedict Arnold, and Alexander the Great as cau­tionary tales.

“Not set­tling for less can destroy what you have,” Turtel argued.

He said he took this position, because he didn’t think anyone else would. The other five stu­dents in his “flight,” or round, advo­cated for pur­suing the great, as Rock­e­feller pro­posed. Turtel com­peted with stu­dents from col­leges in Michigan, northern Indiana, and Ohio.

Each com­petitor fol­lowed similar tactics: beginning with an anecdote, then sup­porting the prompt with his­torical examples, before returning to the quote. Pacing the room while main­taining eye contact with indi­vidual audience members, the stu­dents sought to argue their claim before judges in a com­pelling and concise manner.

Meghan Cwiok, a senior from Eastern Michigan Uni­versity, also com­peted in Turtel’s flight. She said devel­oping talking points for impromptu speeches takes practice.

“You do one of these a day to try to get used to having to think on your fee that much,” she said. “The thought process is, ‘How can you teach somebody a life lesson?’”

Cwiok said she appre­ciated the change of pace the local com­pe­tition offered. Speech teams like Hillsdale’s and EMU’s travel far around the country seeking com­pe­tition, but this event allowed stu­dents to take on their neighbors.

“I’ve been able to talk to a lot of really cool people,” Cwiok said. “It’s great to be able to hang out with all the Michigan people, because we nor­mally travel to other states.’

Andrew Heim, a graduate student in his second year at Hillsdale’s VanAndel Graduate School of States­manship, helped judge tour­nament, rating Cwiok’s and Turtel’s impromptu round. Vol­un­teering after an email request was sent to graduate stu­dents, Heim said his expe­rience in high school speech and college Shake­speare per­for­mances gave him skills that “translate well” for playing the role.

Although Turtel took an unpopular position in his speech, his warning against the danger of ambition allowed him to reap its ben­efits in the finals.

“That’s what history is,” Turtel said. “Just a col­lection of horror stories.”