Commentary: How did they do that? Public speaking isn’t easy

lindsay carey (web)

I’m the type of person that takes a little while to warm up and feel comfortable being myself. I’ve always been this way, somewhat guarded.

Two of my best friends, who are also sisters, were always known for being reserved as well. I met my friends Renee and Stacy when I was around twelve. They were new to school and barely ever spoke unless it was to each other.

Everyone thought it was so weird how quiet they both were, and I have to admit I did too. However, as time went on I began to find common interests with them –specifically American Idol. Little did I know this was my way “in.”

I’ve always watched American Idol with my older sister Lauren and my mom, who are both very outgoing. Not only did I share their obsession with the singing competition and Disney Channel movies, I understood their “shyness.”

I also understood the bond a person has with their sister and for all of these reasons we became friends.

One day they invited me over to their house, I think so we could watch the show together. I was one of the only friends at school that they invited over for a long time, and I’m so glad I went.

I was surprised to find that when I entered their world, I couldn’t get them to shut up—not that I really wanted to. As the conversation flowed, we found more and more common interests with both of them, like movies and celebrity gossip.

I also found that I connected with both of them in different ways. I loved makeup and beauty like Stacy, but also shared a love of novels with Renee. I would never know this or have these friends in my life if I didn’t try to see past their “shyness.”

This past Thursday, I walked into Southington High School as a judge of the Southington American Legion Post 72’s Oratorical contest—a memorized speech contest based on the U.S. Constitution and the Amendments.

I didn’t know any of the four contestants, and they didn’t know me. It can be hard enough for some students in middle school and high school to even speak to their peers, and yet these students were giving speeches in front of complete strangers.

When I started high school, my friend Renee and I clung to one another a lot. We passed notes and hung out with each other after school. When we had a speech to give in front of class, we both would freeze up.

During my freshman year, I wrote this really cool story for an ice breaker assignment in English class, but was too shy to read it. Thankfully, my teacher read it for me. Moments like that, I look back on and wish I had had the confidence to read it aloud, because everyone really enjoyed what I had to say.

It wasn’t until we both became comfortable with all of my classmates at my small high school that I really was confident giving presentations in classes. However, when I went to college, I didn’t have this luxury and was kind of thrust into it –sink or swim. Fortunately, I swam, but that isn’t the case for everyone.

So last Thursday, I found myself in awe of the four students at Southington High School who participated in the Oratorical Contest, because I know my younger self may not have had the courage to participate even if I wanted to.

It’s awesome that the American Legion offers an opportunity like this for high school students, not only because they can win money and the opportunity to compete at the state and national level, but because it encourages personal growth and development.

The earlier that students are able to conquer public speaking, the better off they will be in escaping their comfort zone and communicating their thoughts and ideas in any room. The skills that these four girls displayed at this contest will go on to help them in their academic and work lives.

Thank you to the American Legion for allowing me to get out of my comfort zone in the news room and back into the classroom to learn a thing or two from a group of bold high school girls and congratulations to all of them for this accomplishment.

Lindsay Carey is a staff writer for the Observer.

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