Kutztown Rotary Club held its 4-Way Speech contest, open to area students in 11th and 12th grade, on Feb. 27. This year, participants included Bianca Giannantonio and Mackenzie Blatt, both juniors at Kutztown Area High School.
The 4-Way Test is a well-quoted statement of business ethics developed by Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor in 1932 and later adopted by Rotary in 1943. It is used universally as a guide by employees to make business decisions by asking 4 simple questions: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all involved?
The 4-Way Speech Contest was developed by Rotarians to promote critical thinking and ethical decision making among high school students. The contest encourages students to develop speaking and leadership skills to influence others on a topic for which they are passionate. The contestants are to create a speech 5-7 minutes in length addressing an ethical problem of their choice using the principles of the 4-Way Test. These principles must be an integral part of the speech and students are judged based on content, organization, and delivery. An internal judge for the Kutztown Club level contest was Rotarian Christine Williams and external judges were James Schnell and Daniel Bloomingdale, Assistant Professors of Communication Studies at Kutztown University.
Bianca Giannantonio enjoys art, acting, and writing and has her eye on studying art therapy and fine arts. Bianca’s interest in art and drama led her to examine the ethical problem of violence in our culture portrayed mainly in film and video games.
She used the 4-Way Test to prove that violence in the media is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. She provided statistics and direct quotes from movies and video games which easily supports (1) the truth that virtual violence exists, is prevalent, and is encouraged. She also showed that the portrayal is (2) unfair to cultures that must deal with real violence in their everyday lives, as their suffering is invalidated by the portrayal. It is also easy to see that virtual violence (3) does not promote goodwill, as the message is do whatever you can to win, including extreme violence. Lastly (4), virtual violence is clearly not beneficial as it slowly desensitizes a person to devastation and chaos and studies show it is linked to aggressive behavior. Bianca concluded by providing good suggestions to help solve the problems stemming from virtual violence - be aware of the detrimental effects, make conscious decisions to separate yourself, and teach self-awareness in our schools.
Mackenzie Blatt enjoys hiking, biking, swimming, and pretty much anything outdoors and plans to study military journalism at West Point. Mackenzie used that interest in journalism in her speech as she covered the news story of fake and biased news for her ethical problem, a subject Mackenzie is obviously passionate about. She explained that although the news should be (1) the truth, it is often clouded by inaccuracies, bias, fake news and alternate facts, which is simply (2) unfair to the public. However, reinstating trust in the media will (3) build goodwill for the people in general. Moreover, society in general will (4) benefit from reinstating this trust and the only people that would not benefit are the people who push fake news for a political agenda. She concluded by stating that the world may be a complicated place full of bias, political disarray and debates – but the news does not have to be.
In addition to the experience in critical thinking and ethical decision making provided by the 4-Way Test Speech Contest, monetary prizes are awarded at each level of the competition. Both girls gave magnificent speeches which clearly made the judging difficult. In the end, Mackenzie was awarded the $100 prize and will move on to the Regional competition level which will take place at Albright College on April 13. Five regional winners will then compete for the District Championship at the 2019 District Conference taking place in Allentown the first weekend of May.
The Kutztown Rotary Club belongs to Rotary District 7430 which includes all Southeastern PA, except for Philadelphia, and therefore encompasses a large territory. We wish Mackenzie the best of luck in the rest of the competition and commend both Mackenzie and Bianca for the exceptional speeches they delivered.