There is an old Tamil saying that victory comes to those who articulate well.
The gift of the gab does not always purport verbosity but saying the right word with righteous belief has the most powerful and enduring effect.
The ability to stand up and argue with conviction distinguishes people, regardless of their age, disposition or even erudition.
The young mind is seldom restricted by environment or for that matter even the audience. It speaks its thoughts and delivers opinions.
The Great Race
That was how it was at the Annual Race Unity Speech Competition which the New Zealand Police sponsors with enthusiasm and energy, not least because it symbolises freedom of speech but because it fosters the young to think and speak, promoting in the process the concept of oneness.
Wellington based New Zealand Police National Ethnic Advisor Inspector Rakesh Naidoo personified the anxiety of his Organisation to engage with the people of all ethnicities in general and the younger members of the society in particular and enthuse them to debate on issues that matter to them and to the country at large.
Small to Big
“This year’s theme, ‘Big Change Starts Small,’ held at Mahurehure Marae in Pt Chevalier, Auckland on Saturday May 16, 2015, was indicative of the need to maintain and promote New Zealand’s achievement as a peaceful and harmonious nation. We are increasingly becoming multiculturalist and multilingual and it is therefore necessary to engage in healthy dialogue for collective thinking and action,” he said.
The theme, taken from the speech of the winner of the 2014 competition, captured the essence of Race Relations Day to which the event was dedicated.
There were moments of seriousness, sobriety, humour and solemnness as well as those of laughter, theatrical skills and language delivery as students from schools from Bay of Plenty to Dunedin argued on the need to forge unity, despite our diversity.
The Treaty Reference
There were eight finalists in the competition and almost all of them referred, as if on a cue, to the Treaty of Waitangi and its 175th anniversary celebrated on February 6, seeking to draw the achievements or otherwise of the famous document.
The teenagers showed their penchant for quietude (evident in the eloquent speech of Waimarama Matena from Wanganui High School) and anxiety to foster a more inclusive society (as witnessed for instance in the presentation of Gauri Prabhakar of Lynfield College, Auckland) appeasing the ageing generation that all will be well with them.
Each contestant was forceful, elegant and superb in his or her oratory skills, creating a major challenge for the panel of judges, which included Inspector Rakesh Naidoo, Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy, Ethnic Communities Office Director Berlinda Chin, AUT Professor of Diversity Dr Edwina Pio and Barbara Morgan of Speech Communications Association.
However, there was little surprise when Kimberly D’Mello, Year 12 student of Aquinas College, Tauranga was declared Winner, followed by Louis Paul of Huanui College, Northland and Stephanie Cooper of Rangitoto College, Auckland as Joint Runners-Up.
Kimberly proved the dictum that right words are not enough, it is the moment that matters. She also proved that three essential elements determined a good speech- something important to say, ability to say it well and the moment of consequence on which response is based to gain the attention of an audience.
She converted Race Relations, Community Unity and the Competition theme (‘Big Change Starts Small’) into a ‘Do-It-Yourself’ exercise.
“Don’t wait for someone else; Do it yourself. Don’t get someone else to fix the problem; Do it yourself. Don’t rely on the Aussies; Do it yourself!” she said to a thunderous applause.
There were moments of seriousness, even interrogation, when Kimberly asked a few questions, aiming particularly at none.
It was a half-question and half-statement, when she said, “Would it not be cool if we built bridges between cultures rather than building walls to contain our differences? We are aiming at building those bridges of Race Unity. So are we gonna get some bloke in? Come on mate, Do It Yourself!”
“New Zealand has its own identity. We have come this far,” she said.
Kimberley said as New Zealanders, we should take pride in our Nation and believe in our ability to achieve and punch above our weight.
“We are a progressive nation in so many respects and the world looks up to us. We should have the ability to analyse our rock star economy, marvel at our low unemployment, be astounded by our low crime rate, be surprised that we made the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies and be astonished by what our small country can do!” she said.
Among the other finalists were Christine Shao, Macleans College, Gauri Prabhakar, Lynfield College (Auckland), Jacobi Kohu, Morris Logan Park High School (Dunedin), Saffron Huang, Macleans College (Auckland) and Waimarama Matena, Wanganui High School (Wanganui)