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Young Lebanese have their say

Public speaking competition tackles topical subjects

Genetic research, online universities, homosexuality and national unity: Those were some of the topics as students from Lebanese universities shared their thoughts on the global future in Saturday's Sixth Public Speaking Competition.

Thirteen students under the age of 21 competed on stage at Balamand University, each presenting their own interpretation of this year's topic "Mapping the Global Future" in a five minute speech.

The jury chose two winners to represent Lebanon in the international public speaking competition in London in May.

Winner Haneen Joudieh from Notre Dame University (NDU) said: "I think the competition was hard, but I feel fine with what I did. I had not planned my speech much, it was very spontaneous."

Joudieh, an advertising and marketing student, was encouraged to participate in the competition by her adviser at NDU, but it was not her first time speaking on stage in front of an audience. "I have done it before and I love it. I just get on stage and feel high," she said.

Dalal Mawad from the American University of Beirut was the other winner.

"It was a good experience for me, personally and professionally," said the economics student.

Her speech, entitled "Lebanese Youth: Challenges for the Future," called on young people in Lebanon to overcome confessionalism and take control of their own future.

"I chose the theme mainly because of recent events. We're at a turning point in the future of this country and Lebanese youths are seeking change. They are tired of confessionalism, and I try to be the voice of these youths," she said.

She said she looks forward to the international competition in London, where students from more than 35 other countries will participate: "I look forward to meeting people from different cultures and backgrounds and sharing ideas, views and ambitions."

One of last year's winners, Samia Badih, described her trip to London as "in a way life changing." She won the price for best non-native speaker in the international competition.

"I learned so much and met so many people from different countries. It changed me in a way."

The four judges in the competition, organized by the English Speaking Union, selected the winners based on both the content and the delivery of their speeches.

"We go for the whole package, keeping in mind that the winners are going to represent Lebanon in London," judge Ahmad Oueini, professor of psychology and education at the Lebanese American University, said.

"The two winners definitely had charisma, confidence, originality and a connection with the audience. They also had a lot of poise."

Beirut,04 03 2006
Kristin Solberg
The Daily Star
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