Last Wednesday, I had the honor of judging the Berryville Rotary Clubís Four Way Test Speech Contest. That means I spent my lunch hour talking with folks who work hard to better our community. We all heard from six high school students, who were instructed to deliver a speech that uses the principles of Rotaryís Four Way Test.
What is the Four Way Test, you ask? If Iím being honest, I didnít know such a thing existed until I received judging materials. The Four Way Test addresses four questions to evaluate an ethical issue. Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
All six speakers did a fantastic job addressing the Four Way Test, whether they were talking about the importance of dance or how to handle issues that might offend you. While the speeches were impressive, I was most impressed by the studentsí courage to get in front of a crowd and share something they wrote. Some of the topics were very personal, making it all the more impressive.
These columns can sometimes be divisive, but this week Iím going to say something most everyone can agree with. Stage fright is the worst. You can plan the perfect speech, rehearse for hours and still get tripped up once the time comes to deliver it. I have been personally victimized by stage fright on more than one occasion, including that time I yelled at the interviewers during a Teach for America teaching demo. Spoiler alert: I did not get the job.
Did I mention that happened during my senior year of college? I had hoped stage fright would disappear with age, but that was not the case. Even today, after years of getting comfortable in front of a crowd, I find myself shaking in fear before giving a speech. Everything calms down once the speech starts ĖĖ†itís a lot like the anticipation you have waiting in line for a roller coaster or sending an emotional message to a person you canít predict. When we canít predict whatís going to happen, our brains go a little crazy.
Thatís why I was so impressed by the students who spoke at the contest. Even if they were nervous, all the students powered through and finished their speech. They took a step toward becoming more confident in front of a crowd, something I wish I had done when I was their age. Itís tough to reach adulthood and realize you still have so much to learn. I bet weíve all shared that experience at one point or another. In fact, I bet weíve all shared many of the same experiences without realizing it.
This week, Iím feeling grateful for those shared experiences. Working in a community like Carroll County means I get to have a bunch of those moments with all kinds of people. Judging Rotaryís speech contest is certainly one of those moments. To the Berryville Rotary Club, thank you for inviting me to participate in the contest. It is wonderful to feel like I am part of something bigger than myself.
And to all the students who delivered a speech, thank you for inspiring me to be brave. I have been talking about presenting some of my personal writing at a local monthly event for some time now. In February, I resolve to make that happen ĖĖ†to make my voice heard.
After all, our voice is the only one weíve got.