2019 House Rhetoric Challenge

Written By Catherine Baum

Every year, Westminster’s house system holds a series of Namesake Challenges, one of which is the Rhetoric Challenge, issued by Columba house. The Rhetoric Challenge charges one student from each house in the 10th-12th grade to present a first-person narrative explaining the life and significance of their respective namesake. On September 27, 2019, the presenters gave their speeches to the upper school students and faculty, and the recordings of their speeches were sent off to judges throughout the country. The judges of the 2019 Rhetoric Challenge were Adam Lockridge and Jim Carnes, former rhetoric teachers of Westminster, and Andrew Smith, a teacher at Veritas School in Richmond, VA. The judges critiqued the student’s speeches based on their content, delivery, relevance to their respective namesake.

Elizabeth Ann Hickman represented Becket house, presenting a speech written by Jack Keith, Ella Wilson represented Athanasius house, presenting a speech written by Ginny Fisher, Anna Funes represented Boniface house, and Christley Vaughn represented Columba house.

First place was awarded the Becket, second to Columba, third to Boniface, and fourth to Athanasius.

Even though the Rhetoric Challenge is a competition between the houses, in what way does it actually benefit the participants, or relate to the Westminster curriculum? The first place winner, Elizabeth Ann Hickman, shared a few of her thoughts. She said that her favorite part of participating in the rhetoric challenge was being able to see the talents of others, especially her writer, Jack Keith, as well as her fellow presenters. She also added that it strongly aided her in her Senior Thesis, to be delivered in April, as it gave her an opportunity to be observed by a larger audience, rather than just her classmates. And finally, in her own words, “Overall, rhetoric is a special challenge at Westminster, and I think it is highly important as it not only utilizes the core class of rhetoric that we learn at WA, but it also sheds light on the individual and his or her unique perspective with how they direct the speech and present it.”

Click Below to watch the winning speech!