Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Listen! The Children Are Speaking!

(above & seated: Shaniah Faith Kew, Gloria Ang & Prasanth Selvam)
(above & standing: Is that Stanley wearing his school tie???!!! Read on for illumination)

The winners of the 23rd YMCA Plain English Speaking Awards displayed their eloquence by showcasing their winning speeches 'live' in The Living Room.

Beauty queens can surely take away public speaking tips from these students who were champions at the recent YMCA PESA competition, talking their way to victory!

Eight-year-old Shaniah from Marymount Convent is probably the only one to have heard the untold and unadulterated version of Cinderella. This spunky articulate girl told the story with so much conviction that Pamela and I believe this to be the one true version!
So out with the pumpkins, carriage and mice!
Gloria's heart-felt analysis of friendship and the fragility of it tugged at the heart-strings; no surprise if her speech left you and fellow listeners guilt-ridden given the way we treat the bonds we've formed with others, sometimes so loosely. The CHIJ St. Nicholas Girls' student knew how to craft a speech that speaks to the heart, rather than just the head.
As for Prasanth, his candid unprententious manner in delivery bowled us over. His speech on whether government campaigns are necessary was book-ended by the SAR-vivor rap and a musical except from 'Man in The Mirror' by the late Michael Jackson. Prasanth is a 2nd-year Singapore Polytechnic student studying Aeronautical Engineering.

Stan shares his brush(es) with the Plain English Speaking Awards...

With the Dunearn Secondary School crest on the oversized navy blue blazer I wore, I stood anxiously under the breath of eager judges seated in front of me. The auditorium of the Ministry of Environment (as it was known then, now Ministry of Environment & Water Resources) was the stage for where I'd be in verbal combat with compatriots from other pre-university institutions.

Who would have thought that 17 years later, I'd be seated on the judging panel and off the stage at the 23rd YMCA PESA! The pressure was gone, but the memories were just starting to return. PESA refers to the Plain English Speaking Awards - an oratorical contest.

My prepared speech was about Singapore being a 'fine' country. It was a brazen attempt at presenting Singapore as a city state whose governing authorities slapped monetary penalties at almost everything from spitting, to littering and not flushing. All appeared fine (no pun intended) as I delivered what I'd tried to commit to memory. I found assurance in the form of cue cards, which I periodically referred to. However in my deliberate effort to gesture (I was told it'd add value to my delivery) while speaking, I carelessly knocked the cards off my left hand. They flew out of my grasp like a pigeon a cat had taken by surprise. Aplomb gave in to aghast. The sequence of the anecdotes and points I was to deliver was thrown into disarray. I stooped to gather my cards, which though had fallen onto the carpet, laid in the order in which they had been while in my hand. Neat. But it was going to be one jolt that would mar the remainder of my speech. Not too neat!

Fast forward to today. I sit with a distinguished and colourful panel of co-judges comprising a toastmaster, an Englishman (now Singapore PR) with the Ministry of Education, a corporate trainer in presentation skills, a magazine editor and an online video producer-presenter. Each from a distinct background, each having undergone diverse experiences in training and life, yet on the same side with one objective - empowered to select a winner from the winners. We shared a passion for the English language - that in itself was cause for communal celebration no less.

Last Thursday evening, I attended the YMCA PESA awards ceremony - something I missed 17 years ago when a contestant. It truly has come full circle.

Life can be full of curious pleasantries. May it happen for you too!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

buddy, i know i'm always commenting on your entries *LOL* but i so love the way you write. you should be a print journalist!