One of my favorite programs at our weekly Rotary Club of Morgan Hill meetings is the annual speech contest for high school students. This year’s contest was held January 30 at our Community and Cultural Center meeting site, and I definitely came away from it thinking it was the best one ever! Of course, I have thought the same thing for the last twenty-two years that I have been in the club.

We had ten kids this year, seven from Sobrato and three from Oakwood. Unfortunately Live Oak had no representation this year, hopefully they will next time. All contestants were dressed to the nine, definitely for success. Along with their professional outfits many of the contestants also had choreographed their presentation, walking around and using pleasing hand gestures that underscored highlights of their speech.

Rotary is all about service. Our motto, “Service Above Self” and the saying that “he who serves best profits most” were the underlying themes upon which the kids built their speeches. They were also directed to tie in Rotary’s four-way test, which asks if it is true and fair and will it build good will, better friendships and be beneficial? 

All ten speeches were really well done, I have no idea how the judges were able to pick a top three but they did. All contestants met the 4-5 minute time limit, incorporated the 4-way test and really nicely stayed on the service theme using varying examples from their own experience.

The kids were inspired to service in many different ways: serving baked potatoes to the homeless, reading books to younger kids, boy scouts, the iconic leadership of Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln, the farm labor organization leaders, teachers, parents and grandparents, first responders and generous acts of kindness by people like buying coats for the homeless.

Third place went to Rylie Hauge from Sobrato who talked about her parents raising five kids while still finding the resources to enable them to also take in several foster kids. Oakwood’s Shria Bulusu took second place with her talk about the great sacrifices her grandmother made and how she is inspired reading to younger kids. First place went to Oakwood’s Lillianna Jaquet who also cited her grandmother, a Peace Corps veteran as her inspiration.

The other contestants included Shalimar McGinnis, Henry Evans, Crystal Garcia, Molly Foster, Myan Lam, Valerie Doan and Madina Turaeva. All participants did a fantastic job and I left the meeting very much inspired, not only to keep volunteering my service, but also to keep working with these wonderful kids who are our future and if these contestants are representative, it is truly a bright future.


Steve Tate