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Slow Things Down: Juniata Sophomore Urges People to Connect More Deeply in Winning Speech

(Posted February 29, 2012)

The top three contestants in the Bailey Oratorical Contest are, from left: Libby Morrison, a senior from Portland, Ore. and third place winner; Elise Mihranian, a sophomore from Chester Springs, Pa. and first-place winner; and Bryan Aungst, a junior from Millerstown, Pa. and second-place winner.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Elise Mihranian, a sophomore from Chester Springs, Pa. studying international business communication and politics, received the first-place award last night in the annual Juniata College Bailey Oratorical Contest by urging the men and women of her generation to find the will power to slow down and pay attention to the personal relationships in their lives.

Mihranian, who received $1,000 for her award, and six other contestants were asked to address the topic: "What does it mean to live in "interesting times" and what are the qualities of youth that our interesting times demand?" before a trio of judges and a partisan audience of students, Tuesday, Feb. 28 in the von Liebig Theatre in the Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts on the Juniata campus.

Mihranian cited such technological breakthroughs as Facebook, Twitter and email as roadblocks to having meaningful conversations and persuaded the audience and judges that, "In all likelihood, half the people in this room spent more time interacting through a screen today than actually talking to someone."
Mihranian pointed out that today's youth may be acquainted as Facebook friends, but often these relationships are not very deep, saying "When I log on to Facebook my newsfeed has countless pieces of information about my friends -- relationships, birthdays, weekend plans. But even with all this information, I don't know any of these people better."

Bryan Aungst, a junior from Millerstown, Pa., earned the second-place prize, receiving $500. Libby Morrison, a senior from Portland, Ore., was awarded the third-place prize, receiving $300.

In her first-place speech, Mihranian, who admitted she has 1,578 Facebook friends, argued that while most people realize that meaningful relationships are being sacrificed to multitasking and wi-fi connectedness, ultimately they can help themselves, "The interesting times we live in are due to a world that is stuck in fast-forward. We value our time so greatly that we continue finding ways to do things faster and faster, we cram more and more into less time. It's a numbing obsession."

"We must use our time in a meaningful way instead of the most efficient one. Facebook. Twitter. Those tings aren't connecting us. What really connects us is compassion, kindness and love."


She said the qualities of youth should not be spent revolutionizing technology and conceded that the fast-paced life is unlikely to change. Instead she urged that today's youth use their will power to become more connected. "We must use our time in a meaningful way instead 0f the most efficient one. Facebook. Twitter. Those tings aren't connecting us. What really connects us is compassion, kindness and love."

Mihranian concluded her speech by saying, "The youthful quality of will power makes it possible for us to fight back against the dogma of speed -- we've all been stuck in fast-forward so long we've lost sight of what makes us all human. What we all need is to be encouraged, and listened to, and loved.'"

The remaining four finalists were: seniors Alyssa Beck, of New Kensington, Pa.; Maeve Neiswanger, of South Windsor, Conn.; Ellen Santa Maria, of Wallingford, Pa.; and sophomore Zachary Lemon, of New Bloomfield, Pa.

Judges for the event were:

Thomas Bailey Thornbury, a retired nuclear physicist with General Electric and the son of Sedgley and Elizabeth Bailey Thornbury, the donors who continue to sponsor the Bailey Oratorical awards. Thornbury earned a bachelor's degree in 1958 from Princeton University. He currently lives in Berlin, N.Y.

Laurie Patterson Trexler, a 1970 graduate of Juniata, taught at the elementary school level for 24 years. She earned a master's degree in Teaching ESL, and oversaw the ESL program in Brandywine Heights School District in Berks County. She volunteers as the Children's Ministry Director and Children's Church teacher at her local church.

John Hanna, an Indiana, Pa., attorney who has run his own law firm since 2003, specializes in real estate, wills and estates. He earned a bachelor's degree in 1974 from West Virginia University and went on to earn a law degree in 1980 from the Antioch School of Law in Washington, D.C. From 1996 to 2002, he was the solicitor for the Indiana County Tax Assessment and Tax Claims Office.

The original Bailey Oratorical Award was established in 1915 by the Honorable Thomas F. Bailey, who served as president judge of Huntingdon County from 1916 to 1936. The oratorical contest has a long tradition at Juniata College, as students from all areas of study can compete for the monetary prize. In addition, the name of the winner will be permanently inscribed on an antique loving cup.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.