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May 1, 2018
Nora McRae Continues to Inspire Public Speakers
The Nora McRae Public Speaking Tournament is a sure sign of spring at Branksome Hall. Students from Branksome Hall, BSS, UTS, Lakefield, Country Day School and Thomas Aquinas displayed their courage and eloquence at the all-day tournament.

“In the future, skills that aren’t interpersonal will be replaced by artificial intelligence,” explained Grade 11 Branksome student, Signy. “So public speaking is an important skill to master.”

Founded in 1998 and named after former Branksome English teacher Ms Nora McRae, the public speaking tournament is one of the longest running in Ontario.

“Nora was a lover of antiquity, in particular Greece and Italy, which she would visit every year,” recalled Deputy Principal Karrie Weinstock. “She was cultured, stylish and intellectual. She was passionate about words, both written and spoken, and she enjoyed debate and the clash of ideas. Ms McRae co-founded debating and public speaking at Branksome Hall with Aija Zommers, and over the decades she inspired many young women— honing their public speaking and leadership skills. She is certainly with us today in spirit.”

Ms McRae’s efforts launched the career of Liz STRATTON’11. The former Branksome debater and public speaker competed twice at the World Championships and was the first Branksome student selected to the Canadian National Debate team. Now she is a full time debate coach and was back at her alma mater with the UTS team.

Throughout the day, students from Grades 7 to 12 competed in in seven categories, including interpretive and persuasive speaking, impromptu speaking, declamation, dramatic interpretation and after dinner speaking. During the “radio newscast” segment, a student was given a newspaper and had 30 minutes to deliver a news broadcast. “It’s a really well-rounded set of skills,” explains Ms Stratton,. “Learning to manage going from one round to another and supporting your teammates in competition is a great opportunity for the students.”

Congratulations to BSS for winning the Nora McRae Award for Excellence in Public Speaking in both the Junior and Senior division, and to Grade 8 Branksome student Genevieve who won best Declamation in the Junior School category.

“If you don’t enjoy the confrontation of debating but you enjoy presenting and speaking, this tournament gives you many options,” says Frank Cerullo, debate coach at Thomas Aquinas Catholic School in Brampton. “The quality of competition is at a high level, and the trophies are cool!”

It was a practice tournament for Grade 8 Branksome student Maylee, who will soon be off to the Junior Nationals in May. Good luck, Maylee! We also look forward to seeing all the eloquent speakers and their coaches next year, when Branksome hosts the World Debating Championships, from April 11-17, 2019.

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