All talk: Middle school speakers heading to oratory invitational

By on February 3, 2016

These Warwick Middle School students will compete in an oratory invitational at Cocalico next month, (left to right) Michelle Gibble, Henry Stover, Stella Newman, and Akash Banerjee.

Hillary Clinton might want to keep an eye out for some up-and-coming competition.

But she won’t have to worry about it for at least 22 years. That’s when Warwick Middle School eighth grader Michelle Gibble will be old enough to run for President, if she is so inclined.

Gibble was one of four eighth graders who gave the Warwick School Board a sneak peek at their abilities as orators on Feb. 2. They will be participating in the inaugural Cocalico School District Oratory Invitational on March 16.

Along with Gibble, the students include Akash Banerjee and Henry Stover, who will be representing Warwick Middle School. Eighth grader Stella Newman also made her oratory presentation for the school board on Tuesday evening.

As Middle School Assistant Principal Michelle Harris noted, when the invitation came from Cocalico, she asked eighth grade teachers to suggest any students who might be interested. Warwick was only allowed to have three students at the invitational.

To Harris’ surprise, there was a pretty enthusiastic response. Several wanted to do it, even though they weren’t quite sure what it meant.

As Harris explained, she had to look it up herself. She discovered that oratory was the study, analysis and recitation of speeches in order to better understand history, human relationships and communication. In the invitational, oratory could be original speeches written by the students, or the recitation of speeches written by others and previously presented by others.

In Gibble’s case, she chose a speech written and presented by Hillary Rodham Clinton on 1995, when she delivered an address to the United Nations 4th World Conference in Beijing, China. Her speech was titled “Women’s Rights are Human Rights.”

For a moment, it seemed that Gibble had indeed channeled the voice and passion of Clinton, as she spoke of the role women have in families, childcare and creating income. She described the risk that comes when women are not valued in society, stressing the how important it is that “every boy and girl is loved and cared for equally.”

In a speech he wrote himself, Banerjee talked about “Religious Bigotry.” His speech was impassioned as he talked about the international perils of this ongoing problem, from the deaths of millions of Jewish people by the Nazis to today’s persecution of Muslims.

“Religious bigotry causes war, pain and death,” said Banerjee in his well-crafted oratory. “This despite the fact that humans are genetically 99.9 percent the same.”

He was ardent in his argument that after thousands of years of religious bigotry, we must prove that we are not “incapable of learning from our mistakes.”

Stover’s speech was also self-composed, and he was impressively composed as he talked about “Community Service and the Civil Air Patrol.” In a voice that seemed far beyond his years, he encouraged listeners to consider the importance in serving in the Civil Air Patrol, which is part of the U.S. Air Force and responds to emergencies and natural disasters like 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and Hurricane Sandy.

Newman spoke from the heart when she talked about the ways that non-verbal communication was still meaningful communication. In “Action Speaks Louder than Words,” she told the board how much it meant to her to learn American Sign Language that helped Warwick Middle School students reach out to deaf students at the school.

As Harris added, the middle school started an after-school club on sign language after they realized students with hearing problems were sitting separately in the cafeteria, because of communications issues with other students who did not know sign language. Students were so enthusiastic about joining the club that they had to have more than one session. The students with hearing problems are feeling more accepted and part of the school.

“We are looking forward to the oratory invitational at Cocalico,” Harris said. “As you have heard this evening, our students are amazing.”

Laura Knowles is a freelance reporter who covers the Warwick School District beat for the Record Express. She welcomes reader feedback and story ideas at


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