ST. MARYS — More than 30 speakers decked out in patriotic garb and armed with props took to the stage Sunday afternoon as part of an annual speech contest.
The St. Marys Eagles hosted the annual St. Marys City God, Flag and Country speech contest. The event featured speeches ranging from the abolition of slavery to how to make an American pizza and included three age groups — 10 to 11-year-olds, 12 to 13-year-olds and 14 to 15-year-olds.
“Mamma no, where are you taking me,” Kara Danaher said during her speech in the 10 to 11-year-old division. “It all started in 1820, I was taken by force and separated from my loving family. It’s been so long, I can’t even remember my own mother’s delicate face.”
Danaher went on to tell an account of the daily life of a slave who was kidnapped and sold.
“I have to work from sunrise to sunset and I only get Sundays off,” Danaher said. “I have to make my own pots and pans to eat in.”
As her speech unfolded, Danaher told of the slave’s escape via the Underground Railroad. The journey took her to Ohio.
“I praise God every day for my wonderful freedom and the freedom of other slaves,” Danaher said. “And I will always pray for slavery to end.”
Piper Slone spoke about America’s car dealership. She encouraged people to take advantage of her “amazing, patriotic deals.”
“The first one is a pure, white mini van — it’s brand spanking new, like America was on July 4, 1776,” Slone said.
“We have a beautiful red pick-up truck. When I look at this pick-up truck, I think of the Industrial Revolution — this was a major turning point in history.”
Slone likened each color of the flag to a type of car sold at her dealership. Slone recited a quote from former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger about the day he became an American citizen.
“As long as I live, I will never forget the day 21 years ago when I raised my hand and took the oath of citizenship,” Slone said.
“Do you know how proud I was — I was so proud that I walked around with the American flag on my shoulders all day long.”
Morgan Henschen’s speech centered on giving thanks to the men and women of the Armed Forces. Henschen noted her uncle is a member of the Air Force who flies supplies to troops.
“Think of all those people who fought in war and died for our freedom,” Henschen said. “The bravery they honored, the life risks they took for our freedom.”
Henschen also talked about the many freedoms available to citizens in the United States versus those in other countries. In many cases, she said citizens under dictators have few freedoms.
“They don’t have the freedom of religion,” Henschen said.
“They don’t have the freedom of speech ... And for all I know, they don’t even have the freedom to go where ever they want.”
Carrie Braun, a sixth-grade language arts teacher at St. Marys Middle School, said the contest provides students with a variety of lessons.
“The state standards say the students have to give a speech in front of an audience — so it’s something they have to do as far as the classroom,” Braun said.
“Speaking is becoming more and more of every job and I think that’s one of the benefits. It also helps kids get over anxiety and nervousness.”
Another trait Braun said the contest develops is confidence.
“I know just in life in general, if you can get up in front of an audience and speak, you are going to be confident,” Braun said, noting she has seen students blossom as a result of the contest.
“The confidence factor is huge. The kids who come into the contest, even the kids who are so nervous, they come back and do it again because it’s a confidence booster. It builds their self-esteem and confidence in everything inside and outside the classroom.”