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TR Public Speaking Contest a Tremendous Success

The Theodore Roosevelt Association held its annual public speaking contest on April 22. The contest is for high school students in Nassau County. The public speaking contest which is sponsored by the Friends of Sagamore Hill and the New York Community Bank is divided into two parts. The semi final competition is held over a two day period and the finals held in a single morning session. Both the semifinals and finals are held at the Old Orchard Museum on the grounds of scenic Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, the home of Theodore Roosevelt in Oyster Bay, New York. This year 32 students participated in the contest which eventually was paired down to three prize winners.


The purpose of the contest is to encourage students to improve their proficiency in public speaking; including developing critical thinking and independent research skills, organizing and communicating ideas and gaining the understanding of the interrelationship of various disciplines. The development of public speaking skills helps students to expand academic skills, promote scholarship, and build confidence, self reliance and leadership ability which will help them to achieve success in the business and professional world. In the contest each participating school may select up to five contestants by whatever method it considers appropriate.

The rules of the contest are simple. The speeches must be original with the content restricted to topics related to Theodore Roosevelt. Speeches must be memorized and of five minutes duration. Originality, ingenuity and creativity are encouraged in the development of topics and speeches. There can be no use of props or costumes.  The three award winners were selected by a panel of judges composed of educators, community leaders, members of the National Park Service and members of the Theodore Roosevelt Association.

Blue Ribbon Panel

This year the judges were certainly a blue ribbon panel. Our panel this year was: Ms. Dorothy Doughety who is the education director of the National Archives in New York City, the superintendent of Sagamore Hill National Historic Site Thomas Ross; Father Peter Casparian of Christ Church in Oyster Bay; Pastor Jeffrey Prey of the Presbyterian Church in Oyster Bay; Mr. Phil Blocklyn who is  the archivist of the Oyster Bay Historical Society; Thomas Kuehhus the executive director of the Oyster Bay Historical Society; Mark Kozoil who is an assistant curator at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site; John Hammond, Town of Oyster Bay Historian; Professor Natalie Naylor formerly of Hofstra University; Elizabeth Roosevelt of the Theodore Roosevelt Association; John Fennel, vice president of New York Community Bank. The coordinator and master of ceremonies for the public speaking contest was Professor Howard Ehrlich, interim executive director of the Theodore Roosevelt Association.

Winning Speeches

The winning speech was delivered by Daniel Sullivan of Chaminade High School in Mineola. Daniel lives in Albertson. The topic of his speech was the election campaign of 1912 in which Theodore Roosevelt ran as a third party candidate from the Progressive Party. The content of Daniel’s speech was impeccably researched and was flawlessly delivered. The judges commented that it was like listening to Walter Cronkite and Tom Brokaw wrapped up in one person. It was a real treat to listen to Daniel. Here is a young man with a future.

In second place and not far behind in the ratings was Funmi Akinnawaona who represented Hewlett High School. Funmi who resides in Valley Stream gave a wonderful speech about Roosevelt’s 1910 Safari... After listening to Funmi one felt they were actually with Roosevelt on the Safari.

The third place winner was Nicole Fisher from Herricks High School. Nicole, a New Hyde Park resident, gave a rousing speech on the women’s rights movement and Theodore Roosevelt. It was as one judge commented,” we were back in time watching the women suffragettes picketing in front of the White House for their right to vote.” So you can see it was a tough decision for the judges.

Daniel with his first place finish won a $ 1,000 plus a $ 200 savings bond from the New York Community Bank. In addition Daniel got to take home a magnificent Theodore Roosevelt bust by the famous artist Gleb Derujinsli as well as one for his school. Finally Daniel gets the opportunity to deliver his speech on the porch of Sagamore Hill on July 4.  

Funmi was awarded a cash prize of $ 500 and a $ 100 bond from the New York Community Bank and Nicole Fisher was awarded a cash prize of  $ 250 and a $ 50 bond from the New York Community Bank. All the contestants got to take home a special Theodore Roosevelt Medal that was specifically designed by the Theodore Roosevelt Association back in the 1920’s. Mr. Ehrlich commented that all the judges agreed this was the best contest, in terms of the quality of the speeches, we have ever had.