Senior Sarah Watson Wins Northwestern Oratorical Contest

Senior Sarah Watson Wins Northwestern Oratorical Contest

Sarah Watson

SESP senior Sarah Watson won the first Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Contest held at Northwestern University. As the winner, Watson gave her winning oration at the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration event at Northwestern's Pick-Staiger Concert Hall on January 26.

Three finalists were chosen to present their speeches to an audience and judges at McCormick Auditorium on January 19. The finalists for this oral advocacy stage were selected on the basis of essays and videos that students had submitted to the judges earlier.

During the oral advocacy stage, judges evaluated the finalists’ speeches on quality, content, persuasiveness, style, organization and creativity. Watson was announced as the winner of the contest.

In addition to Watson, the other two finalists in the contest were SESP junior Zane Waxman and Weinberg freshman Sumaia Masoom. The top three contestants had a personal audience with the MLK Commemoration speaker Michelle Alexander.

Initially, contest participants entered the competition by submitting essays and videotaped speeches in response to this quotation by Martin Luther King Jr.: “A riot is the language of the unheard.”

Watson discussed the news events that occurred recently in Ferguson, Missouri, in connection with racial discrimination in policing and the larger issue of civil disobedience.

In her speech, Watson referenced the film The Great Debaters, a movie about civil disobedience. “The closing scene taught me a crucial lesson about the ways that black people experience the criminal justice system in the United States,” Watson said in her speech.

She added, “It is hypocritical in and of itself to tell people who are oppressed by the law that in order to stop being oppressed, they need to respect the very law that oppresses them.”

Northwestern University initiated the Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Contest to further the University’s recognition of King, which was also commemorated with speeches and other events for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 12/8/15