Young orator to address race relations

Otago Girls’ High School pupil Henrietta Finney Waters (15) rehearses her speech for the Race Unity Speech Awards, which will be held online later this week. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH

Giving a speech is nerve-racking at the best of times.

When it is streamed to millions on the internet, it becomes a whole new ball game.

It is a situation Otago secondary school pupils will have to come to terms with when they compete in this year’s annual Race Unity Speech Awards, which will be held online to comply with the Covid-19 lockdown.

Otago Girls’ High School pupil Henrietta Finney Waters wondered if it would be a little bit like giving a “state of the nation” speech on television.

“It will be slightly more intense than FaceTiming someone.

“It is a different sort of setting, but it’s been the same form of preparation, in terms of getting ready for the competition.”

She said she was well prepared and was looking forward to giving her speech.

Otago/Waitaki regional co-ordinator Sheila Skeaff said organisers debated whether the nationwide competition should go ahead, given the lockdown.

“While we need to distance ourselves physically, the importance of staying connected socially and discussing the issues that face our society necessitated a creative solution.”

She said the regional speech awards would be streamed on YouTube today and on Monday.

Competing speakers would share their views on the topic: Titiro whakamuri, kia anga whakamua — to face the future, look to the past.

Organisers were excited to hear what pupils had to say about pressing issues like teaching New Zealand history, commemorating the March 15 mosque attacks, and the future of Treaty of Waitangi settlements.

She said the top speakers from the Otago/Waitaki heat would participate in the national final in May, which would also be held online.

The Race Unity Speech Awards, initiated by the New Zealand Baha’i Community, aim to give young people a voice in the national conversation about race relations.

Otago Daily Times