Whereas in previous years competitors could choose the topic of their speech freely, this year’s competition had an overarching theme, ‘Overcoming Challenges’, a theme that was still inviting enough to stimulate the students’ imaginations in a huge variety of ways. Which it did. A wide range of interesting accounts of ‘overcoming challenges’ formed the content of the speeches, from personal challenges to the challenges that others have overcome and therefore inspired admiration and respect.
The audience was taken on a roller-coaster ride of moving, entertaining and starkly honest accounts of how we cannot escape adverse life events; but can face them bravely and with fortitude; and in doing so, overcome them. One notable feature for me was just how brave young people are today about confronting difficult personal issues openly, a notable improvement on the practices of the past.
The purpose of the public speaking competition is to ensure that BBS students have the opportunity to develop a vital life-skill, which is to speak confidently to an audience of strangers. This is a skill that is of immense value: the human voice is still a highly persuasive tool and it is a certainty that all our students will be asked to do ‘presentations’ in future careers; and if they overcome this challenge at a young age, then it will be much easier for them to carry the skill with them throughout life.
The inspiration behind our choice of theme for the evening was the guest of honour, Benjamin Terasewicz. Benjamin had come to Berlin all the way from America, invited by a member of the BBS board. He has toured internationally, and given a TED talk on overcoming his own challenge, which is living with Autism. In an informative and uplifting presentation between the speeches and the adjudication, Benjamin took us all on his own journey through life, and listed the many challenges he has faced, and how he overcame them, with the help of family and friends, an important message.