On February 3rd and 4th, sophomores and juniors participated in the preliminary round of the 2020 Robert H. Lebow Oratorical Competition. While the student body had the opportunity to watch the six finalists in the all-school assembly, they did not have the chance to hear all of the contestants perform their speeches and listen to their stories. All of the messages presented by the participants are important to the community, and as a result, excerpts from a few first-round speeches have been provided. 

Brian Li: “The Neglect of Humanities in the 21st Century”

The humanities serve as the foundation for human civilization. They teach us how to think critically and creatively. They facilitate empathy and compassion. We communicate more clearly, understand cultural values, and are introduced to new perspectives through the humanities. Humanistic education has been the core of liberal arts since the ancient Greeks, challenging students through art, literature, and politics. The humanities bring clarity to the future by reflecting on the past. Perhaps most importantly, they allow us to explore and understand what it means to be human. We need, now more than ever, to be able to understand the humanity of others. And while STEM is undoubtedly beneficial for humankind, we cannot sustain the neglect of the humanities for much longer without suffering severe consequences. With revolutionary technology like AI and genetic engineering, the humanities are essential to ensure that we progress ethically and morally together. 

Andrew Wong: “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”

A question many of us in this room have heard in countless interviews, and yet it is a question that can reveal so much about ourselves. So, where will we be in 10 years? In 10 years, we will have found ourselves going through the entire college process and graduating from Pingry. We will go to and then graduate from college. We will have the rest of our lives splayed out in front of us, ready to grasp in our hands, as we enter the real world, ready to be the next generation of business people, engineers, doctors, lawyers, politicians, world leaders, and so much more. That answer seems pretty easy and straightforward, right? In reality, not so much.

Lauren Drzala: “An Uphill Battle”

As time went by, I was falling behind on work because I could not write at all, leaving me frustrated in school. In addition, my mental health was at an all-time low. I began to isolate myself, believing that no one could really understand how I was feeling. It was like I was falling and no one was there to catch me. On top of that, I was told I could not play my sport this winter, nor could I play the piano, an instrument that I have been playing since I was nine. I felt out of control and just had to watch the train wreck happen. I thought my friends had moved on so I tried to as well, but I just felt stuck. Left behind. I was in this mind set for a while, but it wasn’t until I realized that I could not give up on myself and settle for this empty feeling that my life started getting back on track. This triggered an uphill battle to try and climb my way out of the dark. 

Aneesh Karuppur: “Straying from the Tune”

We are always told that “small steps will lead you to your goal” and “you won’t even know how much effort it really takes if you do it one step at a time.” But people forget that for this advice to work, you have to actually be looking at your feet and making sure that every step is in the right direction. Otherwise, you simply aren’t going to notice until you’re too far away from your goal to make a correction.