Westminster Academy Final Rhetoric Speeches

The culminating work of a student’s education at Westminster Academy is the delivery and defense of a senior thesis. It is a comprehensive and integrative project that requires students to use the knowledge and skills they have acquired throughout their education at Westminster to craft a thoughtful and persuasive argument on a chosen topic. It is an opportunity for students to demonstrate how much they have learned about research, reasoning, and rhetoric. The thesis topic must be an issue of depth and significance about which Christians can reasonably disagree. In addition, researching the topic, contructing the paper, and defending one’s thesis orally will provide excellent training for upcoming college and life experiences.

In one sense, the senior thesis is little more than another (albeit longer) rhetoric paper. However, students are expected to prepare and submit this paper as formal proof of the knowledge and skills they have acquired as students classically educated. It should be, therefore, the very best essay our students have written thus far.

The paper must be rigorously researched, carefully documented, and winsomely presented. Students must demonstrate their ability to:

  • Weave together facts and arguments in a cohesive manner

  • Gain an audience’s trust by exhibiting competence and confidence in their research

  • Explain the context and significance of their thesis

  • Develop an argument that is logical and persuasive

  • Support their thesis using primary and secondary sources as evidence

  • Effectively and eloquently communicate their arguments to an audience

Students will be given 20-30 minutes to present their thesis and defend their position, followed by a period of up to an additional 15 minutes of questioning and discussion with the faculty and guests. The thesis delivery will be developed and judged in the following manner:

  • Delivery: the presentation must be a formal speech in which the student will present the argument from a speaking outline

  • Memory: students may use two sheets of paper from which to speak, but they are not allowed to read from a manuscript

  • Defense: students must be prepared to engage the faculty members in a discussion of the thesis following the speech

  • Protocol: students must maintain a professional and formal comportment both verbally and non-verbally, presenting as a mature and competent scholar

Ready to see our students in action? The videos below are from the 2015 Rhetoric Finals. The top three speeches were chosen to present at a special gathering for faculty, parents, alumni, and other friends of Westminster. We hope you join us next year!

First to present was Evan Furst, “The Purpose of Sex: Weighing the Cultural Definition against the Biblical Standard”, followed by Kellan Maxwell, “The Importance of Coaching: More Than Wins and Losses,” and third, Ellie Lyons, “The Loss of Beauty in the Modern Portrayal of Women.” Ellie Lyons received the John and Day Hodges Rhetoric Award for excellence in rhetoric.