Hu Participates in Lions Club Public Speaking Competition


Mohammed Abbasi

Senior James Hu recently participated in a public speaking competition held by the Massachusetts Lions Club. Photo by Mohammed Abbasi

Alison Jackson, Managing Editor

A self-proclaimed shy individual, senior James Hu wanted to challenge himself. So, he decided to enter the Massachusetts Lions Youth Speech Competition, a public speaking contest held by the Massachusetts Lions Club that features competitors from nearby high schools and gives students the opportunity to compete for a $1,000 scholarship at the state level.


Although Hu had never participated in a public speaking contest before, he volunteered to participate after public speaking teacher Taylor Sherman told her two public speaking classes about the competition. Hu was primarily looking to use the contest as an opportunity to become more “outgoing” and “open-minded,” but he was also attracted to the contest because of his interests in singing and acting, which he felt were similar to public speaking. Hu even saw the contest as a beneficial experience in relation to the career path he wants to pursue.


“I also want to major in art performance and communications in college, [so] I was just like, ‘this is a good chance,’” Hu said, adding, “If I get through it…I will have a better record on my resumé with college.”


According to Sherman, the Massachusetts Lions Club notifies MacDuffie of the annual competition each year, and she decided to offer her students a spot to compete after the competition was brought to her attention by English Department Head Carol Tomkiel.


Each year, the Lions Club selects a prompt upon which students base their speeches, and this year’s prompt asked students, “What does integrity look like?” Little did Sherman know, Hu was already preparing himself for the competition with the assignments her classes were already working on.


“At the time in public speaking in the class when I became aware of this contest, we were…working on a speech that had to do with integrity,” Sherman said, “We were already playing around with the idea of integrity and what that looks like and where it comes up and how…to best act in a way that promotes integrity and preserves it.”


Hu was “doing the groundwork without realizing it was groundwork in class,” in Sherman’s words, and thus he had around two months to craft his five-to-eight minute speech focusing on the topic.


Hu found this two-month period to be “plenty of time” to write his speech and also felt that he knew the prompt well because of his prior work in class with the idea of integrity.


What does integrity look like to Hu, then?


Hu believes that integrity, which he views as “connected to our life,” is evident through “honesty and a “sense of justice.” Another integral part of Hu’s speech focused on the impartiality aspect of integrity, which Hu described as “not favoring one side of two opposite sides by their status or power.”


Despite having an adequate grasp on the prompt itself, Hu said that he still felt nervous on the day of the competition’s first stage due to the unexpected visitors that attended his presentation. Because Hu was the only competitor in the first phase of the competition, which was limited to students at MacDuffie, he was only required to read his speech in front of a judge from the Massachusetts Lions Club. However, Hu did not know that Head of School Steve Griffin as well as other student spectators would be viewing his presentation.


Recounting his first performance, Hu said, “I wasn’t prepared for that…I didn’t really do anything; I just wrote a script and kind of read off it, but I was kind of confident, so it went fine and the judge was happy.”


After reading his speech in front of the judge, Hu received feedback that he used to make improvements on his speech in preparation for the next round of the competition that featured three nearby schools and took place on December 6. For this stage, Hu would also have to limit his notes to three 3-by-5-inch index cards (as he was allowed to use original computer paper for the first round).


Leading up to the second round, Sherman assisted Hu in fine-tuning his speech, specifically focusing on “clarity” and “directness,” according to Sherman. In terms of “directness,” Sherman emphasized the importance of organization in Hu’s speech in order to properly convey his point to the audience.


“Organization is key,” Sherman said, “You really want to be able to make a really clear line in the beginning of the speech so that the audience…has that in their head, so while they’re listening…they’ll know what to expect next and they’ll have a good framework.”


In addition to these areas of improvement, Hu said that he wanted to “prepare for being louder and more confident” for the next stage of the competition.


However, after the next round of the competition, Hu realized that he faced another challenge as an individual who was not a native English speaker—all three of his competitors spoke English as a first language. Despite doing the best he possibly could, Hu did not advance to the next round of the competition, yet this did not leave him in low spirits.


Hu described his participation in the contest as a “great experience” and even added, “I think I would keep doing these contests in the college too.”