Gray, Kao dominate in speech competitions

Zackary Conci ’21, Staff Writer

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Class of 2020’s Michael Gray participated in the annual Lions Club Speech Contest competition and won. Gray has collectively won a total of $4,650 from the Lions organization, which gives students scholarships for winning totaling $103,500.00.

Gray said, “I was encouraged by my speech coach Joey Klobas and past competitors in the competition from Riordan, like Roman Peregrino.”

He has won competitions on the Club, Zone, Area, and District levels in the Lions Club events.

Joey Klobas ’07, speech coach, said, “This is the farthest a Riordan student has gone in this competition.”

Gray has been delivering speeches regarding freedom of press throughout his duration with the Student Speaker Foundation. He said, “I’ve been doing the same speech every time, but there have been progressively more restrictions on how I am allowed to deliver it. In my case, the topic has been “Freedom of the Press: What Does it Mean?”’

Gray makes it look easy delivering his speeches, although a lot more work goes into a single speech than one would think. He said it takes, “a lot of research and practice.”

“I need very specific facts and evidence to actually support claims and that takes a long time to find, so in order to prepare I need to have quotes, statistics, historical facts, etc. In order to deliver a speech without a lot of awkward pauses and gaps, I need to practice it until I can deliver the same way every time.”

He added, “On multiple occasions, like the nights before competitions, I’ll practice my speech over and over for four hours or more.”

Speaking in front of large crowds is a fear among many although Michael says, “I find that I don’t have a problem with it when I can emotionally connect to what I am saying.”

Isaac Arguello ’21 said, “I have great amount of admiration as well as inspiration when I see Michael seemingly effortlessly deliver his speeches in front of everyone and I aspire to be like him.”

In his future profession he hopes to use his skills in speaking in front of large crowds of people to his advantage.

“I always assumed speaking would be an aspect of my career whether it be through law, politics, or elsewhere. I enjoy researching and presenting ideas, so whatever I do in the future should go hand in hand with speaking.”

Another student, Joshua Kao ’22 won first place at Chinese Language Teachers Association of California’s 44th Mandarin Speech—the most prestigious Chinese speech contest in the Bay Area.

Mandarin teacher YinShan Yang said, “With great confidence and excellent fluency, he gave a speech ‘Life experience in Beijing’ where he has shaped himself during his nine year journey in China. It is his first speech contest, and his parents are very proud of his performance.”

Approximately 500 K-12 and college/university students from the state competed in the contest on April 27 at Lowell High School in San Francisco.

Yang said, “The goal of the competition is to foster Chinese-language skills. Students are assigned a category based on grade and their Chinese-language experience. Participants wrote their own three to four minute speeches and memorized them. Judges evaluated them on the accuracy of their Chinese pronunciation and tones, Chinese fluency, speech delivery, pace, gestures and content.”

Kao said, “When Ms Yang, my Mandarin Teacher, first introduced me to the competition, I thought it would be a great experience for me, since I had never done anything similar. I wanted to challenge myself so I agreed on participating.

His speech focused on “overcoming ordeals and embracing unique moments in our lives.” Like Gray, he spent several hours and days preparing.

“I first drafted my speech with Ms Yang. Every day I would read the speech over and over again until I could read it fluently,” he said. “Then, through daily practices with Ms Yang, I was able memorize the speech paragraph by paragraph. Finally, I was able to naturally present my speech to my class a couple of times.”

While Gray is grateful to Klobas, Kao appreciates the time Yang spent with him for his competition. He said, “Without her, I would not be able to have the courage and skill to succeed in the competition.”