The seven speakers — four high school and three middle school students — represent the work of the entire MMA Corps of Cadets, Academic Dean Dr. Frank Giuseffi said in his opening remarks.
“Competition began months ago as each cadet researched and wrote a paper on a vital issue of today for their English class,” Giuseffi said. “Each student then presented his speech in preliminary competition. Teachers selected semifinalists from each class who were then judged by an MMA faculty panel.”
Second round judges were faculty members CPT Katherine Larison, Erin Chambers, Dr. James Bonanno, CPT Carl Estenik and first-year event coordinator LT Lewis Bell.
The first speaker of the evening was Jordan Thomas Hornick ’20, whose speech was entitled Should College Athletes Be Paid?
“I think that they should pay the college athletes,” Hornick concluded, quoting industry profit figures and sports advertising expenses. “The college athletes will also work harder and become better.”
Up next was Eugenio Valdes ’19, whose speech was entitled Are We Too Dependent on Computers?
Valdes reflected on the recent trend of playing video games and communicating via phone, comparing this to his mother’s childhood, which was spent playing outside and interacting face-to-face with friends.
“Nowadays people prefer talking to each other using text messages or e-mails,” he said. “The happiest people [are the ones] that have less. You can start making a change. Don’t make your life dependent on technology. You can call me crazy, but I imagine a world where we smile when we have low batteries.”
The final middle school speaker of the evening was Rogelio Coria Lopez ’21, whose speech discussed a similar topic: Are We Too Dependent on Technology?
Coria discussed both the positive and negative effects of young adults using electronics, including cyberbullying.
“The real problem is not what our machines think, it’s what we do,” he said of technology. “It can be a [benefit] or it can be a threat.”
High schoolers next took the stage, starting with junior Yunil Jeon, whose speech was entitled The Importance and Impact of Jazz. Jeon began his speech by whistling a tune by jazz artist Miles Davis, then launched into a discussion of the civil rights movement in American history, connecting this to the development of jazz music.
“The entire world should be more educated about jazz, since studying jazz is like studying 20th century America. … In 1902, the American Federation of Music banned every single [piece of] ragtime music from being played or being published,” he said. According to Jeon, those who supported the status quo were “afraid that African American [culture] would take dominance.”
“There were speeches and there were marches in the streets … against segregation. However, I believe the true thing which made desegregation possible was this jazz music,” Jeon continued. According to Jeon, people began to recognize that “all that happens when we unite together is creating better music” and eventually concluded, “I think it would apply to everything else.”
Up next was senior Joshua Paley, who spoke about The Armenian Genocide: The World’s Refusal to Acknowledge History. He began by asking for a show of hands — who has heard of the Jewish Holocaust? Most members of the crowd raised their hands. However, few indicated that they had heard of the Armenian Genocide.
Paley said he had never heard of the Armenian Genocide before he discovered a family tree in a relative’s basement. Many branches, he said, were “cut off in the year 1915.”
“Only 27 countries in the world have actually accepted the Armenian Genocide as a legitimate historical event,” Paley said. “It’s part of a global debate about whether or not it actually happened.”
In his speech Lamborghini: The History of Perfection, Zikun Deng ’15 discussed both his love of sports cars and the history of innovation. Models discussed included the GDV and the Murcielago, which, according to Deng, “redefine the benchmark for luxury sports cars in this generation.”
“To be creative and always revolutionary is what Lamborghini is all about,” he said. “In my opinion, and probably in Mr. Lamborghini’s opinion … luxury is something not just wonderful, amazing and phenomenal, but also very rare.”
Deng pointed to the speed capability and limited production of many models as examples of the way Lamborghini sets itself apart from other manufacturers. As he looks up at the Lamborghini poster on his bedroom wall, Deng said he is inspired to pursue greatness.
“In the case of 2013’s Spike Lee remake of the 2003 Park Chan Wu film Oldboy, there were too few changes from the original Korean film,” Mertens said. “In the case of John Carpenter’s 1982 film The Thing, a remake of Christian Nyby’s 1951 film The Thing From Another World, the film was successful. But why? … He used astounding practical effects in order to make the film more horrific than any other film seen before.”
According to Mertens, film remakes either succeed by remaining true to and re-imagining the source material, or fail due to lack of innovation or loose adaptation.
“Films are remade every year, such as Total Recall, Godzilla and even Annie,” he concluded. “These films can be good but so often they are simply cynical cash-grabs that leave us jaded towards new films.”
The MMA Jazz Band performed during a brief intermission in which the judges determined award winners. Judges were Lou Leonatti, J.D. of Leonatti and Baker; Dr. Mitchell McKinney, Professor and Chair of the Communication Department at the University of Missouri; and Patrick Morgan, J.D., the Chief Counsel of the Securities Division at the Office of the Missouri Secretary of State.
According to Leonatti, who is a partner at the same law firm at which Fry once practiced, the decision came down to the last 30 seconds of deliberation time. “This was close!” he said.
The first annual Joy McGeorge Middle School Oratory Award went to Valdes. This award is given to the middle school cadet whose speech is judged to be the best on the basis of charismatic and knowledgeable oratory skill.
Paley received both the Winston Churchill Memorial Award and the W. Wallace Fry Cup for Excellence in Speaking. The Winston Churchill Memorial Award is given to the cadet who speaks most persuasively on behalf of a just cause, while the W. Wallace Fry Cup for Excellence in Speaking is given to the cadet whose speech is judged to be the best on the basis of delivery, content and depth of thought.
“Kudos to our English department both in the high school and the middle school,” Academic Dean Dr. Frank Giuseffi said, “for the great work they did in guiding these boys.”