People express themselves in a thousand ways.
They do it via Twitter or Facebook or through a variety of social media outlets.
They do it with anonymous comments that verge on the outrageous, and often cross that line.
They do it in ill-named reality TV shows and while committing the dangerous act that is texting while driving.
They do it in protest marches, and anti-protest marches, and with the way they wear their hair and pants and necklines.
But even with all of that self expression, most people don’t seem to stop and ask themselves this vital question: Why does what I say matter?
That’s what so intriguing about the Grand Strand Optimist Club’s Oratorical Contest for students in our area; it forces students to think not only about the freedom each of us shares to express himself, but why, with the possibility of earning scholarship money and other awards for the student who does it best.
The club’s 2013 contest is open to every student in Horry and Georgetown counties under the age of 19 and challenges them to consider “Why my voice is important.”
The deadline to register is March 15. Call George Cox at The Cox Law Firm for more information at (843) 497-7000.
John Grover, who heads the club, says he wants to “make good kids better” and give kids growing up in less-than-ideal situations a chance they otherwise would not get.
“As they prepare for their future, many of our local students need experience expressing their thoughts and opinion to an audience,” he said.
The potential $2,500 in scholarship money, communications practice that will be handy during future job interviews and the possibility of competing on a bigger stage against students throughout South Carolina all make the contest worthwhile. (A 7th grader from St. Andrews Catholic school won it last year.)
But just composing an answer to the question makes the exercise all the more valuable.
To understand why your voice is important, you have to first understand who you are and the impact you can have on the world, for good or for ill.
That alone forces you to stop and think before acting recklessly or destructively or giving in to peer pressure or giving up too soon on vital challenges.
You can’t get there by simply citing the First Amendment protection of free speech.
You can’t get there by merely repeating what you’ve heard your parents say, or reciting the things teachers demand you know.
You can’t get there any way other than by looking deep within – something too few of us spend enough time contemplating.