It felt funny to be on the other side of the table.
Last Saturday, two other judges and I watched in amazement as kids from the age of 3, barely potty trained, to kids in their preteens, took the stage to wow us with their elocution.
The event was “Win With Words”, an annual public speaking competition conducted by Rennu Dhillon of Genius Kids at the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple. Unlike previous years, the contest was open to the public this time and almost 60 kids enthusiastically took the stage to compete for trophies.
According to the Book of Lists, the fear of public speaking ranks above the fear of death or disease, prompting comedian Jerry Seinfeld to observe, “( At a funeral)..most of us would rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy.” Having participated in several such competitions in my childhood, I can testify to the panic that envelops a participant when he or she is on stage, facing a set of bright lights and a group of strangers.
But it is to Miss Rennu’s credit that even the youngest and tiniest participants bounded up to the stage with confidence, eager to deliver their lines( most of the kid were Genius Kids students or alumni.) Yes, those lines were often forgotten and mummy or daddy had to stay on the sidelines, prompting their children with audible whispers, but not once did I see a child show fear or nervousness. Many showed creativity (or, at least, their parents’ creativity!) by dressing up in costumes and using props to deliver their message.
The topics were restricted to about a dozen, and a few like “What I want to be when I grow up” and “Eating healthy” were popular, though judging by the responses we are going to have a preponderance of healthy doctors and basketball players in the next generation! Two participants spoke on the importance of dance, illustrating the topic beautifully with hand gestures, or mudras. One decided to give a speech on the pros and cons of cell phone use, using a banana as a substitute.
All were impossibly cute, which made the judges’ job impossible. Still, we scored away diligently, with occasional “aha” moments when a child was outstanding. At the end, some kids won trophies and others went home with certificates of participation, but to my eyes, each and every child showed amazing courage by braving the stage, something I can safely bet few of their parents would attempt.
A public speaking competition like “Win With Words” is an incredibly important part of the many extracurricular offerings that enrich a child’s education and it is my hope that next year so many more kids will participate that the Genius Kids team has to stretch the competition over two days. I know how competitions like these added to my confidence and speaking skills as a child and want that experience for every child who would like to compete.
Here is a list of the winners –
Category 2 – ages 3 to under 4 years old
1st Place – Sanah Bhardwaj – My Favorite Book
2nd Place – AbhinavJoshi – Endangered Species
3rd Place – Deeta Ganapathy – What I Want To Be When I Grow Up
Category 3 – ages 4 to under 5 years old
1st Place – Siri Basavaraj – If I could be an animal, what I would be and why
2nd Place – Rachana Aithal – What I Want To Be When I Grow Up
3rd Place – Abhay Acharya – What I Want To Be When I Grow Up
Category 4 – ages 5 to under 7 years old
1st Place – Lara Panda – Importance of Eating Healthy
2nd Place – Viraj Verma – My Favorite Book
3rd Place – Rithika Susarla – Is there any value in homework
Category 5 – ages 7 to under 10 years old
1st Place – Rahul Joshi – How films impact our lives
2nd Place – Sanjana Aithal – What I Want To Be When I Grow Up
3rd Place – Sarnesh Raj Arul
Category 6 – ages 10 to under 12 years old
1st Place – Anisha Upadhya – Importance of Dance
2nd Place – Sohil Kshirsagar – Importance of cell phones
3rd Place – Madhukar Muralidhara – You must be the change you want to see – Mahatma Gandhi
Abhay Varshney – Importance of the Internet