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Speech team performs diverse selections

Tyrone speech team Some members of Tyrone’s 95-year-old speech team gathered together as they prepared to rehearse for their spring speech convocation at Southern Huntingdon High School near Orbisonia. Those students participating from this oldest of Tyrone High’s teams include, from left, row one: Marah Hawes, Jessica Thomas and Charlene Adams. Second row: Grant Gonder, Adam Stager and Brandon Parks. Back row: Nathan Kruis, David Cherry, Dean of Students Mark Mitchell and Coach Richard Merryman. Missing from the photo is Ryan Bressler. (The Daily Herald/Amanda Golden)

On the afternoon of Wednesday, April 23, eight members from Tyrone High’s Speech Team were scheduled to compete in the Spring Convocation of the Central Pennsylvania Speech League at Southern Huntingdon High School, near Orbisonia.
Tyrone sophomore Ryan Bressler was to perform the final paragraphs of John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s January 1961 Inaugural Address. In that speech, the late President Kennedy uttered this memorable sentence to the American people — “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.”
Tyrone sophomore Nathan Kruis was to transport listeners almost 70 years backward in time to May 13, 1940. On that day, Prime Minister Winston Churchill delivered his Inaugural Address to the British Parliament, even as Hitler’s armies roared across Europe. Traveling across history to those dangerous times, many older folks never have forgotten the immortal promise Churchill made in first speech as Prime Minister: “I would say to this House Of Parliament, as I said to those who have joined this government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.”
Speech team new-comer David Cherry was to beckon listeners backward in history with two poems of World War I, composed by British soldier Wilfred Owen. Soldier Owen was shot exactly one week before the close of World War I on November 11, 1918. Entitled “Futility,” Owen’s poignant poem portrays that sad day when even the kind old sun could not awaken a farm boy soldier from the eternal sleep induced by a gunshot in the Great War.
Freshman Grant Gonder was to recreate America’s more recent battle for civil rights in the 1960s, performing Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream Speech.” King delivered that oration before 50,000 people on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. in August of 1963. In the 40 years since the assassination of Dr. King on April 4, 1968, scholars have noted that both Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln distinguished themselves as the two American orators who regularly employed references from the Bible in their political speeches to the American people.
Sophomore Charlene Adams was to present an original poem entitled “I Have Lived A Thousand Years”. According to Adams, she composed this original poem about the World War II Holocaust victims. In her original poem, Adams gave voice to the pain of a young child brutalized by the Nazis.
Sophomore Adam Stager was to journey backward past both World War II and World War I to 1865, and to the American Civil War. Stager orally was to interpret Poet Walt Whitman’s Masterpiece entitled “O Captain! My Captain!” Symbolizing America and Abe Lincoln with the dual metaphors of a ship and a captain, Whitman described the sad aftermath of Lincoln’s assassination on Good Friday, April 13, 1865.
Sophomore Marah Hawes was to recite Catherine Starr’s personal poem called “It’s Been Awhile.” The poem Hawes was to perform describes a mother / daughter relationship which faded because the mother fell victim to cancer.
Freshman Brandon Parks was to perform the lyrics from two songs that have grown hugely popular in this new century – “Homeward Bound” and “You Raise Me Up.” In “Homeward Bound,” a Las Vegas librarian named Marta Keene wrote of the human longing to return home with these comforting lyrics, “In the quiet, misty morning / When the moon has gone to bed / When the sparrows stop their singing / And the sky is clear and red / When the summer’s ceased its gleaming / When the corn is past its prime / I’ll be Homeward Bound in time.”
The Spring Speech Convocation at Southern Huntingdon High School was scheduled to close the speech team’s 2007-08 competition season. Each competition season consists of an autumn, winter, and spring competition involving Juniata Valley, Southern Huntingdon, Tyrone, and Williamsburg High Schools. Each competition commences around 3:30 p.m. and concludes about 7:30 p.m. Two separate judges evaluate all student speakers in these four competitive categories: the speaker’s introduction, the speaker’s content, the speaker’s voice, and the speaker’s appearance.
After a light dinner, student speakers receive either certificates or plaques, depending on their level of oratorical achievement. At dinner in the school cafeteria, the winning speakers offer their presentations to the entire Speech League group as examples of fine orations. Each of the four competing high schools employs these four long-time speech coaches: Sherry Crawford and Shane Cowher at Juniata Valley, Regina Hicks at Southern Huntingdon, Richard Merryman at Tyrone, and Elizabeth McMullen of Williamsburg.
Long-time Tyrone Speech Coach Richard Merryman offered this insight about Tyrone’s Speech Team, “A relatively small rural high school like Tyrone is fortunate to be blessed with a talented group of young adults such as we have on the 2007—2008 Tyrone Speech Team. And like most young adults, of course they enjoy winning plaques at our three yearly competitions. Yet, beyond that motivation, these students simply appreciate the opportunity to practice and to enhance their speaking skills. That’s why they remain on the team.”
Continued Merryman, “With their attitudes, these Tyrone students carry forward a Tyrone tradition in speech that stretches back 95 years to 1913. In that year, with World War I on the horizon, like-minded Tyrone students established Tyrone’s First Speech Team – a team that debated issues like strengthening the Panama Canal or fortifying the American military. Enthusiastic audiences crowded Tyrone’s YMCA auditorium, or traveled by train to Huntingdon’s Grand Theatre to encourage these Speech Team debates with fight songs and cheers.
Concluded Merryman, “Obviously, America has changed incredibly since Tyrone’s Speech Team evolved in 1913. Still, whether we find ourselves fighting a World War in Europe in 1917, or fighting a War On Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq, our nation still needs leaders who powerfully can articulate the issues that challenge America in this momentous century. And who knows? In one of the later years of this century, perhaps one of the members of Tyrone’s Speech Team will use the speech skills they learned at Tyrone High and step up to be the leader our nation so desperately needs!”