Brussels' Speer wins provincial competition - May 11, 2017
BY DENNY SCOTT
Brussels-area native James Speer overcame stiff competition, some last-minute medical issues and nervousness to claim his spot as top Grade 1-3 public speaker in the province.
James, alongside his mother Maggie and brother Ben, travelled to Stratford over the weekend to compete at the Royal Canadian Legion Provincial Public Speaking competition after winning his way through the Area competition late last month in Barrie.
His provincially-recognized speech details the odd things that parents say, including idioms and adages and, according to his mother, had attendees at the event rolling in the aisles.
While James said he was nervous when they were announcing the winner, Maggie said she didn’t think he had realized what he had achieved at the event.
“He’s taking it in stride, but I don’t think he realizes the magnitude of the competition,” she said. “Being eight, I don’t think that he understands how big a competition it is.”
James said he was a bit nervous at some of his past appearances on the road to the provincials, but said he didn’t feel as nervous as when he saw them handing out the plaques.
“I could read them, even though they were upside down, and I kept seeing them and saying, ‘Not mine, not mine, not mine,’ and then they read the last one,” he said. “It said winner, and had my name on it.”
James said the speeches were of a higher quality at the provincial competition, saying he only heard one speech at the Area competition that was similar in quality to those competing to be the best in Ontario.
His mother agreed, saying the event really did feature the best of the best.
“The quality of the event was high calibre,” she said. “Not just the presentations but the quality of the writing as well.”
James said he also enjoyed being on the stage at Stratford Town Hall, which his mother explained was more of a theatrical stage than the Legions at which he had previously spoke.
“I had to be really loud because it was so big,” he said. “There was a balcony and it was a big difference.”
Another concern was when James woke up last Monday, less than a week away form the competition, without a voice. Maggie explained the situation made her nervous given how important the competition on the weekend was, however James said by the time he had to talk, it was nothing he couldn’t handle.
“I had been fighting a cold all week,” he said. “My nose was a little bit runny, but it was nothing to worry about. I just got up and did my speech.”
When asked what the key was to having the best speech in the province for his age group, Speer said that he wasn’t sure, but felt making people laugh might be the key. He also said he was just himself when he was up on stage, which his mother said was on the mark.
“Anyone who knows James knows that speech is true to him,” he said. “There was no faking or acting, it was just true to his own personality.”
Saturday, the day of the competition, was a busy one for the family as they came back from the event to be on hand for the District 8 Ambassador Competition at the Brussels Legion.
James presented his speech at the event while judges deliberated on the ambassador competition.
According to Maggie, between the ambassador competition and the public speaking event, James and his brother heard 35 speeches that day. They got home late but there was no rest for James as Sunday morning he began fielding calls from local organizations hoping to have him present his speech at group meetings.
“I might be getting a little tired of saying it, but I enjoy it,” he said. “Laughter is my fuel. The first laugh gives me the fuel to keep going on to the next page of my speech and it just keeps going like that.”
While James had previously celebrated his win by going to The Keg with his family, following the competition the Stratford Legion hosted a barbecue and for the young lecturer, there is little doubt as to which meal he prefered.
“The barbecue was the best,” he said. “I ate two hot dogs, a hamburger some chips and four Oreo cookies. It was definitely better than when we went to The Keg.”
As for next year, James won’t give any secrets away, saying he plans to keep his speech under wraps until it’s time to present it to his class and hopefully start his experience all over again.
He said the challenge will be even greater as he will be against fellow Maitland River Elementary School student Austin Bieman who fell short of the provincial competition.