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The Spike or Victoria University College Review 1934

Plunket Medal Contest ... 1934

page 106

Plunket Medal Contest ... 1934

The orator must be able to infect his audience with his own passion. Oratory is not likely to be found where real feeling is not present, and the audience will refuse to be bluffed by the stock in trade of imported emotion.

"Searching for the truth" was the whole of life to Socrates, but to Mr. Scott's audience it might merely have been the motto of the Free Discussions Club; and if Mr. Scotney had been able to capture Simon Bolivar's passion for liberty, he would have stirred his listeners, who, as it was, noted the interesting fact that Bolivar was very keen on liberty.

Here is where Mr. Larkin scored. His sympathy with his subject, Robert E. Lee, was unaffected, and his telling of the story of the Confederate general found a responsive feeling in the audience. Mr. Larkin well merited the award of first place. His choice of words was very pleasing, and his voice was easy to listen to.

It was unfortunate for Mr. McGhie that he had to speak first. The unusual character of the speech would have been thrown into relief if it had been given later in the evening. The unrelenting torrent of scorn which Mr. McGhie poured on that very bad man Judge Jeffries made the audience share the righteous indignation of the speaker. It was not difficult to visualise the loathsome judge "leering in gloating anticipation."

Beside Mr. McGhie's robust peroration the opening of Mr. Brown's speech seemed a little pale. He warmed up to his subject as he went along but did not succeed in carrying conviction, and one was left to wonder whether John Balance did lead the return to prosperity or whether he was merely just in front.

Mr. Tahiwi commenced talking about the Duke of Wellington in a quiet conversational tone, which, if it had been a prelude to an outburst of high oratory would have been very effective. His hearers waited keenly, held on, doubted, and, finally gave themselves to disappointment as he continued evenly to catalogue the career of the Iron Duke. Mr. Tahiwi's voice and his cultured manner of speech make a pleasing recollection.

Mr. Scott came next. On paper his speech would be destined to go far, but, lacking power in its delivery, it failed to reach the level of an oration. Mr. Scott gave us some striking phrases. Who will forget: "Woe unto him who would teach mankind faster than it can learn."

Atahualpa, the last of the Incas, Mr. Campbell's subject, aroused considerable interest, and he was keenly listened to throughout. The strange Inca names might have been a source of danger, but, as pronounced by Mr. Campbell, they sounded pleasantly musical. His was a good speech, but marred by incessant gesture and restlessness on the stage. A little less of it and his gesturing would have been good, for unlike the others he did not confine his action to wrist movements.

Mr. Sceats had a good subject in T. E. Lawrence and he did not fail to give a good account of himself. His voice is rather highly pitched, which, with his very quick delivery, tended to make the tense moments almost too exciting. His voice would start ascending long before the climax was near and one wondered sometimes if he would make the grade.

Mr. Sceats was followed by Mr. Larkin and Mr. Scotney was the last to speak. He gave his audience a convincing impression of the magnitude of the man, Simon Bolivar. Mr. Scotney lacked in not giving his speech enough light and shade. He pressed on and on to his conclusion and sacrificed the opportunity to lull and then to startle his audience into greater interest.

The judges were Mr. Justice Smith, Mr. Walter Nash, M.P., and Mr. L. du Chateau, and they were unanimous in awarding the Plunket Medal to Mr. Larkin. Mr. Scotney was placed second with Messrs. Campbell and Sceats third equal.

In announcing the decision Mr. Justice Smith said that the judges had endeavoured to test the speeches by reference to the subject matter, the composition, delivery, and the general emotional appeal. He had a few words of kindly advice to give, and expressed the congratulations of the judges to all the speakers.