Ryan Kelly Murphy won the Everett Oratory Com­pe­tition on Tuesday. Matthew Kendrick | Col­legian

Sophomore Ryan Kelly Murphy won the 2017 Edward Everett Prize in Oratory and $3,000 for her speech about judicial review Tuesday. Freshman Michelle Reid won second place and $2,000, and freshman Joel Meng took third, winning $1,000.

“The most important thing in dis­cerning a winner is who argued most con­vinc­ingly and had the most evi­dence, because it’s the his­torical content, it’s the evi­dence, that wins us over in the end,” said Don Tocco, a friend of Hillsdale College and an Everett oratory com­pe­tition judge. “But even with the evi­dence, you have to have the per­sonal con­viction, the enthu­siasm, the passion, the energy on the stage to drive that into the audience.”

Murphy, Reid, and Meng were among five finalists selected to compete in Tuesday’s last round of com­pe­tition, along with sophomore Joshua Hoover and junior Kyle Huitt. Roughly 70 people attended to hear the con­tes­tants discuss the topic “Is the Supreme Court the final arbiter of the Con­sti­tution?”

“I want to present what I have to say to the best of my ability with the most artic­u­lation, while being per­suasive,” Murphy said. “It’s just a whirlwind when you’re up there. You kind of zone every­thing out, even the audience, and you’re just focused on getting your message out in a pow­erful way.”

Murphy argued that con­sti­tu­tional inter­pre­tation is the role of the people and the states rather than the Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court is not the ultimate arbiter of the Con­sti­tution,” Murphy said in her speech. “The idea of it as ultimate arbiter actually con­flicts with the idea of our gov­ernment as a demo­c­ratic republic.”

Reid argued that the Supreme Court is the Constitution’s just and rightful arbiter, citing Alexis de Toc­queville and others. She said the Supreme Court defends the rights of the cit­izens, pro­tecting them from laws that violate their rights.

“I didn’t really have expec­ta­tions going in,” Reid said about par­tic­i­pating in the com­pe­tition. “It went by so fast. It was a lot less intim­i­dating doing it than I thought it would be.”

Meng also argued that the Supreme Court is the most effective way to arbi­trate the Con­sti­tution, citing research showing that most Supreme Court rulings are unan­imous and that dis­ap­proval of the court fluc­tuates widely in both parties.

“For all its flaws, the Supreme Court remains the best way to arbi­trate the Con­sti­tution,” Meng said. “If you want to know what Amer­icans think of the Supreme Court, it depends when, not who, you ask…People aren’t really paying attention to the quality of legal rulings. They care about whether the court went their way.”

Meng said he was well aware of the audience during his pre­sen­tation. He said he had special concern about one judge’s opinion — Pres­ident Larry Arnn.

“I hope Dr. Arnn doesn’t judge me too hard,” he said.

The “superb” per­for­mance by Hillsdale’s top five speakers was edi­fying for the audience, Tocco said.

“For those who were not here today, I say you missed a great oppor­tunity to see Hillsdale’s finest at work on the stage,” Tocco said. “Come back next year, be with us, enjoy the pro­fes­sion­alism and the intel­li­gence and the high skill level of the stu­dents that go here.”

  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    Does anyone else find it inter­esting that the only people who can really spew the Hillsdale pro­pa­ganda are freshmen/sophmores? By the time they are around for 3 years those with enough talent to compete in this kind of a thing don’t have the will to push the pro­pa­ganda any longer. BTW, applause for the Reid and Meng taking non­tra­di­tional Hillsdale views of the subject matter.