Speak out and be true to yourself

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 September, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 September, 2006, 12:00am

A Hong Kong student, 17-year-old Elizabeth Biddle, has won the title of the 4th Greatest High School Orator in a US speech competition.

The competition took place in Washington last month.

The 'Words that Shook the World' High School Speaking Competition was hosted by the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Foundation.

More than 15,000 student leaders from 8,000 high schools were invited to submit DVDs or videotapes of a two to three-minute speech on the topic 'My Message for America'.

The top 25 entries were reviewed by a committee made up of celebrities and community leaders, including activist Erin Brockovich.

The German Swiss International School student was the only Hong Kong student in the final competition.

'I felt a sudden urge to write about [something] I had experienced in Hong Kong - prejudice against Americans,' Elizabeth said.

Her speech, 'Don't Let the Prejudice from the Outside Become the Prejudice Within', is based on her personal experiences in Hong Kong after September 11.

'After [September 11], the world seemed very compassionate ... towards Americans,' she said.

But when America started the war in Iraq, the world's attitude changed.

'I began to pretend I was Canadian because I was ashamed of my own country.'

But her own viewpoint changed when she visited a Vietnam War veteran.

'I felt so guilty that I had turned my back on my country. Now, I'm true to myself and I don't change because of what others think or feel,' she said.

Elizabeth and the nine other finalists were given training before the competition.

They learned about posture and the use of vocal tone and eye contact.

'Passion is the most essential of all. Without passion, there is no speech,' she said.

In the final round, each student gave a five-minute speech in front of 500 students and judges who were members of The White House Press Corps and Federal Judiciary, TV executives and news analysts.

The finalists were also invited to attend the Huge O'Brian Youth Leadership Conference. They focused on how to make a difference in their communities.