(Posted March 3, 2016)

The Bailey Oratorical finalists, from left, Casey Lapham, Connor Hunter-Kysor, Liliane Umuhoza, Julia McMurry, Xavier Cachon, Shalen Perehinic, and Caleb Madder
The Bailey Oratorical finalists, from left, Casey Lapham, Connor Hunter-Kysor, Liliane Umuhoza, Julia McMurry, Xavier Cachon, Shalen Perehinic, and Caleb Madder

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- For the second year in a row, Julia McMurry, a sophomore from Kensington, Md., received the first-place award March 1 in the annual Juniata College Bailey Oratorical Contest by endorsing free speech in all its forms as the ultimate act of courage to encourage and implement change..

McMurry, who received $1,000 for the First Place award, and six other contestants were asked to address a topic inspired by Juniata's recently unveiled strategic plan, "Courage to Act: The Plan for Juniata": How can we summon the courage to act?"

Before three judges and an enthusiastic audience of students in the von Liebig Theatre in the Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts on the Juniata campus, McMurry explained all people possess a mighty and forceful power, the power to publish, petition, and protest. She emphasized at all citizens should find the courage to speak for what they believe in, saying, "Use your free speech. And then, make sure others' speech is also free. Whether it is journalists arrested in Egypt and China, or peaceful protestors detained on American streets, threats to speech anywhere are threats to justice everywhere."

McMurry went on to say that free speech cannot be effective unless every citizen is allowed to speak. She drove home the point that society must elevate those who are traditionally left without a voice. She reminded the audience that quiet voices matter as much as loud voices.
An America unafraid to act must, "not merely leave a seat open at the negotiating table, but invite people to sit in it. To speak not only others' behalf, but also to stand allied behind them, as they speak for themselves," she said.

Liliane Umuhoza, an international freshman student from Rwanda, earned the second-place prize, receiving $500. Connor Hunter-Kysor a senior from Huntingdon, Pa., was awarded the third-place prize, receiving $300.

In her winning speech, McMurry cited the example of the Pennsylvania budget impasse, noting, "Politicians, but also 'we, the people,' sometimes forget that free, empowered speech also requires compromise. Listening."
McMurry concluded by saying, "As Aristotle once put it, 'it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.'

"I hope that when you and I leave this building and walk into that mild, 'almost spring' evening, we carry with us the courage to speak," McMurry added. "To support others in speaking. And finally, to be silent, and listen. Then, together, may we build a just society."

The remaining four finalists were: senior Shalen Perehinec, of Altoona, Pa.; juniors Xavier Cachon, of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., Casey Lapham, of Gaithersburg, Md.; and Caleb Madder, of Towson, Md. The People's Choice Award, the after-contest competition where those who attended the event vote for their favorite competitor, was won by Caleb Madder.

Judges for the event were:

--Jeffrey Bellomo, a certified elder law attorney from North Manchester Township, Pa., (near York). He was named a Rising Star for Pennsylvania's Super Lawyers in 2010 and has been named a Rising Star every year since. In 2011 he received his elder law certification from the National Elder Law Foundation. He has been admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania as well as the U.S. District Court for Pennsylvania's Middle District. He earned a bachelor's degree at Juniata in political communication and went on to earn a law degree from the Widener University School of Law.

--Lori Harris is a coordinator for student discipline and peacemaking at an Afrocentric charter high school in Philadelphia, Pa., where she also develops and teaches elective courses in peace and conflict studies and social justice. Harris also helped create and implement the Pillars of Peace Program and the Philadelphia Community Youth Court at the high school. She also earned a master's degree in restorative practices from the International Institute for Restorative Practices.

--Margaret Finucane is associate professor of communication at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. Her research interests focus on service-learning education and outcomes, as well as interpersonal communication. She earned a bachelor's degree from John Carroll University and went on to earn a master's degree in communication research from the University of Iowa. She earned her doctoral degree from Kent State University.

She has been on the faculty at the Tim Russert Department of Communication and Theatre Arts since 1998. In addition, she chairs the university's Vocation Coordinating Committee and was director of the university's Center for Service and Social Action from 2006 to 2014. At John Carroll, she co-founded the Arrupe Scholars Program, the We the People Service Program, the Poverty and Solidarity Summer Internship Program and the Leadership and Social Justice Learning Community.

The original Bailey Oratorical Award was established in 1910 by Letitia Fisher Bailey and the Honorable Thomas F. Bailey, who served as president judge of Huntingdon County from 1916 to 1936. The contest is named in honor of John M. Bailey, the father of Thomas Bailey, and a former Huntingdon County president judge.

The oratorical contest has a long tradition at Juniata College, as students from all areas of study can compete for the monetary prize. The original prize for the contest was $15 and $25. An enhanced endowment contribution by Judge Bailey's son-in-law Colonel Sedgley Thornbury, provides the contest's prize money. In addition, the name of the winner will be permanently inscribed on an antique loving cup presented to the college by Colonel Thornbury's son, Thomas Bailey Thornbury.

Contact Gabe Welsch at welschg@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.