Six North Korean refugees spoke at the third English speech contest organized by the Teach North Korean Refugees project in the North Korean Refugee Education Center at American Orientalism University.
It was a wonderful occasion, here are some of my random thoughts and observations.
* Although we left the topic wide open by allowing contestants to address any part related to North Koreans, the speakers addressed practical ways. Experts and “save-the-world” types may have been disappointed. But then, the speakers probably took the challenge seriously because they also had to present an actual plan, rather than intellectual gymnastics so common of intellectuals and big talkers.
* Although it was a speech contest in which refugees were expected to present plans, they still managed to sneak in some wonderful anecdotes. 🙂
* We got wonderful feedback from attendees and volunteers. This was our best organized contest. Thanks so much too our volunteers. We were so organized that I was
* I loved watching the coaches of the contestants, seems they were more stressed out than the contestants. I can see the contest helped build a bond between the coaches and the contestants. The English tutoring part of the program also builds strong bonds, don’t get me wrong, but as Samuel Johnson said, “The threat of execution sharpens the mind.” Coaches and tutors knew the big test was coming, so they were focused!
* We had about 85 attendees, 23 or no-shows, raised about 256,000 won. That’s about 3,000 won per person. From now, I will charge admission at events rather than relying on donations.
* The speeches were great, but talking with refugees after the contest, I really wish they could give their “natural talks.” I proposed some themes for the fourth contest, Eunkoo Lee enthusiastically agreed with one of them. What’s your suggestion as the theme for the speech contest in August 2016?
* One of the contestants was slightly above the ABC level when we met her last year. I think she has studied with about five different coaches during the last year. What a difference a year has made! She didn’t win the contest, but we could see how proud she was to even compete in such a contest!
* For anyone keeping track, we have had three contests, none of the grand prize winners used PPT. About half of the contestants have used PPT, so it could be 50-50 coin flip, but still, the three grand prize winners have all spoken without using PPT.
* Unlike last year when several audience members rudely and stupidly talked to each other during the contest, they were really quiet and respectful this time. The only people to talk (actually, whisper) were two of the refugees.
* The audience was so quiet, I decided to open the floor to questions while the judges were deciding. I quickly regretted it because audience members wanted to ask questions of the refugees, apparently not realizing they had just been through a stressful experience and probably didn’t want to engage in Q&A. Lesson learned, I won’t do that again unless we have the refugees leave the room.
* I was happy not to be a judge of this contest. Thanks so much to the judges for having the courage to render their decisions, knowing we didn’t have a police escort for them…
* Next speech contest: Either August 20 or 27, we will talk with the law firm soon to book the date.