Peace Oratorical Contest


Speech on restorative justice and sexual violence earns top marks in oratorical contest

Irena Xhari ’18, a business administration major from Lezha, Albania, was named the winner of Bluffton University’s annual C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest held April 11.

Xhari’s speech, “Restorative Justice and Sexual Violence,” explored the prevalence of sexual violence in educational and church settings. She addressed the failures of the traditional criminal justice system in providing justice to victims and promoted the use of restorative justice as a means of empowerment.

Xhari earned $175 and will compete against winning students from other North American Mennonite colleges during the bi-national competition.

Joel Jacobson ’18, a convergent media major from Carlisle, Ohio, examined the modern media landscape in the United States and paralleled media literacy with the Christian values of truth and peace to show how media literacy can create a more peaceful and civil society.

Katey Ebaugh ’18, a sociology major from Holtwood, Pa., discussed rural homelessness in Ohio and how it doesn’t correlate to the stereotypical images of people on the streets. She also offered ideas on how the church should prevent and respond to homelessness.

Three additional students gave speeches. Jared Hurst, a junior convergent media major from Sharon, Pa., shared “Little Boy and Fat Man: Blessing or Plague?” Floid Krajcovic, a junior convergent media major from Robertsville, Ohio, spoke on “The Peace of Universal Health Care,” and Julian LaVallee, a freshman music major from Jefferson, Ohio, presented, “Bluffton Values For Real Life Situations.”

The contest is named in honor of C. Henry Smith, an early 20th century Mennonite historian and a professor at Bluffton, as well as at Goshen College.

The C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest began in in 1975. However, the oratorical tradition has much deeper roots as Bluffton held its first oratorical prize contest in 1905 during commencement week.

This contest is administered on Bluffton’s campus by the communication and theatre department. Dr. Gerald Mast, professor of communication, has taken the lead for 22 years.

“Peace oratory contests provide our students with the experience of speaking publicly about the challenges to peace in our time,” said Mast. “The contest also encourages both speakers and audience members to think creatively about how we can all be part of the solution to the violence that remains all around us.”

The judges of this year’s competition included: Theda Good, associate pastor, First Mennonite Church, Bluffton, Ohio; Dr. Martina Cucchiara, assistant professor of history, Bluffton University; and Dr. Zachary Walton, associate professor of communication, Bluffton University.

Winners of the peace oratorical contest at Bluffton University have frequently won prizes at the intercollegiate level including the 2015 bi-national winner, Emily Huxman ‘17, from Waterloo, Ontario, and Rebecca Starn ’18, of Findlay, Ohio, who placed third at the bi-national competition in 2016.


Irene Xhari '18