Oratorical Contest Winner


Clay claims first place in Oratorical Contest


BLUFFTON, Ohio—Claire Clay ’18, a public relations major from Van Wert, Ohio, was named the winner of Bluffton University’s annual C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest on March 29. Clay’s speech, “Social Media and Conflict: Eradicating Online Drama through Compassion and Peacemaking,” shed light on the recent increase of violence on social media. She explained how conflict arises from conversations on social media networks and how individuals can transform conflict found on those sites into peaceful online communities.

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

Eric Beachy ’17, a food and nutrition major from Benton, Ohio, came in second with his speech, “Making Peace through Restorative Agriculture.” Beachy’s speech argued that industrialized methods of farming stress our environment while providing ever-diminishing returns. He claims restorative agriculture endeavors to feed our world while stewarding the Earth's resources and rebuilding soil health.

Olivia Poole ’18, a communication major from Shaker Heights, Ohio, earned third place with her speech titled, “Restoring Peace by Challenging White Privilege.” Poole’s speech discussed the existence of white privilege and ways to contest it. She says it’s important to be aware of privilege because it changes the way people move through the world.

Katey Ebaugh ’18, a sociology major from Holtwood, Pa., also competed in the contest. Her speech was titled, “Muslim People: Terrorized, not Terrorists.” Ebaugh’s oratory emphasized how Muslim people face discrimination and are unfairly portrayed by politics and media as being untrustworthy and violent.

The contest is named in honor of C. Henry Smith, an early 20thcentury 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 21 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: Dr. Jeff Gundy, professor of English; Wanda Stopher, pastor, First Mennonite Church, Bluffton, Ohio; and Jackie Wyse-Rhodes, assistant professor of religion.

First place 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 last year’s winner, Rebecca Starn ’18, of Findlay, Ohio, who placed third at the bi-national competition.


- Public relations office