Senior Speeches are one of the school's most hallowed traditions, the culmination of a program in public speaking that begins in first grade with Boy and Girl of the Day.
During this and each school year, seniors gave speeches on topics of their choosing. Beginning over the summer and continuing into April, they presented daily after working with advisors, who provide advice and encouragement but leave direction up to the student. The speeches prove invaluable both in strengthening public speaking and teaching students about preparation and current events.
Students learn a lot simply by listening to the speeches, Headmaster Dennis Manning said. “You are educated across 115 different topics over the course of the year."
The Senior Speech Program dates back to 1950, Mr. Manning noted, coinciding with the evolution of Boy and Girl of the Day.
Teachers evaluate and grade each of the speeches. On April 21, three members of the Class of 2022 took to the Johnson Theater stage for an ultimate culmination, the Senior Speech Finals. This annual event recognizes the three seniors who received the best grades during the year. Those students delivered their speeches again for their classmates and a panel of outside judges.
This year's speeches carried added excitement because they were the first since 2019 to be held in a filled Johnson Theater. Covid prevented allowing an audience last year and the event was held virtually amidst the pandemic in 2020.
The judges determine the most outstanding speaker, who receives the Class of 1952 Award at Graduation in May.
This year's Senior Speech Finalists were introduced by Kristen Tan '22, who had placed fourth in the rankings. The finalists (in alphabetical order):
- Sarah Jacobs, whose speech titled Prisoners Work for Pennies: Change Is Needed argued that prisoners should be paid better for work they perform, so they'll be better prepared for life after their release and less likely to revert back to crime. Her advisor was Associate Director of College Counseling Wendy Livingston.
- Madalyn Mejia, whose speech titled Hostile Architecture: Let’s Bench It argued that cities should eliminate such architecture, which she said is costly and intended to drive away homeless populations that need support. Her advisor was Upper School English Teacher Margaret Marshall.
- David Smythe, whose speech titled Beyond Thoughts and Prayers: The Case for Banning Assault Weapons argued that such a ban is just, legal, and necessary. His advisor was Margaret Marshall.
This year's judges were Ms. Pat Hume, who taught English at Academy for 42 years; Mr. Brian O'Neill '04, who won the Class of 1952 Award the year he graduated; and retired Army Brig. Gen. Matt Brand.
In addition to the finalists, Speakers of Distinction were also recognized during the Finals. The following students received distinction based on their speech grades:
- Eliza Blythe
- Avery Britt
- Corey Brooks
- Abby Fernandez
- Virginia Gill
- Gavin Goss
- Toria Kauffman
- Jasmine LeClair
- Caitlyn Lloyd
- Henry Martin
- Lily Mersel
- Reed Ramirez
- Kristen Tan
- James Wilson