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Speaking Up

Newcomer to forensics team earns national berth

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Ethan Child, ’21, has only been part of Bridgewater State University’s forensics team for a semester, but he already has under his belt an appearance at the oldest speech competition in the country.

Ethan, the reigning Massachusetts persuasive champion, traveled to Monmouth College in Illinois for last month’s Interstate Oratorical Contest, which is open to the top two persuasive speakers from each state. Though he did not become a finalist, Ethan said he was happy to make it to the competition.

“It was a humbling experience,” the East Bridgewater resident said. “I think some of these other students were so amazing.”

Ethan performed his speech, which argued that life sentences are overused and prisons should focus more on rehabilitation.

BSU Professor Susan Miskelly, who serves as director of forenscis and was also a judge at the competition, said Ethan received feedback from a variety of adjudicators. The speeches are so good that judges often struggle to rank them, Ms. Miskelly said.

“It really hones your skills in a way that just cannot be done in the classroom,” she said.

Ethan and his fellow competitors will also have their speeches published in the 2018 edition of Winning Orations, a book used by researchers to study student speeches, and by authors to provide samples for public-speaking textbooks. Ethan joins an impressive list of past contestants that includes former Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. George McGovern and Vernon Jordan, a civil rights icon and the former head of the National Urban League.

Ethan qualified at the Northeast Regional Championships at Suffolk University on Feb. 10. At that competition, fellow BSU students Helena Arnold (second place in Speaking to Entertain), Eamonn Graeme (third place in Informative Speaking) and Haley Costello (sixth place in Persuasion) also excelled. The team also took part in the Novice Nationals on March 10 at Suffolk.

Ethan joined the group at the recommendation of John Tierney, instructor in communiation studies, who taught his public speaking class last semester. Ethan was involved in theater and mock trial at Cardinal Spellman High School in Brockton, but had never taken part in forensics.

Now, Ethan, an English and secondary education major, is looking forward to being part of the BSU team again next school year. The experience he garnered in Illinois will serve him well in future competitions, Ms. Miskelly said.

Forensics has enabled him to travel on an airplane for the first time and meet college students from around the country, all the while building important skills, Ethan said.

 “It does encourage this ability to speak eloquently and speak your mind,” he said. “It also provides an opportunity to advocate for something you care about.” (Story by Brian Benson, University News)

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