In a room filled with at least 75 young speechmakers, Santa Clarita students celebrated their city’s first ever World Speech Day on Saturday.
Largely organized by Valencia sophomore Cassidy Bensko, with the help of the event’s hosts, Global Prep Academy, the Santa Clarita World Speech Day celebration worked to teach students about the importance of free speech here and around the world, according to event organizers.
“It is the first ever World Speech Day event in Santa Clarita, but it is one of many branches of this same event in over 100 countries on the same day,” said Bensko. “We’ve all gotten together to talk about whatever topic they’ve chosen to speak about, except to be respectful.”
Over the course of two hours, speakers who were both junior high school and high school age walked to the front of the room and chose to either stand behind the podium or walk in front of it while holding a microphone. The speeches given ranged from personal experiences that manifested into life lessons or oratory performances typically seen during a competitive, academic tournament.
“I am a competitive speaker and a very opinionated person,” said Bensko. “So I wanted to bring public speaking, which has played a major role in my own life, to the younger kids.”
One such speaker, Jean Paik, is a junior at Valencia High School and a competitive debater herself. However, she used her time front and center to criticize the culture surrounding the academic community she has grown to love over the years.
“My speech was about something I saw fundamentally wrong with the speech community, which is weaponizing the suffering of others for the purpose of our own self gains to win a ballot,” said Paik. “I would just finish a speech at a debate tournament, and say, ‘I can’t believe I just said that.’ I realized there were a lot of bigger things going on in the world than a debate tournament, and I had to educate myself about that.”
Paik said during her speech that she understands the need to discuss atrocities around the world so humanity can learn from those things, but that selfish intent should never be a factor in those conversations — something she sees as a major theme running through her competitive debates.