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Clemson students “speak out”

Each semester, the Department of Communication Studies selects six finalists who are enrolled in either COMM 1500 or 2500 to present their persuasive speeches in the annual Tiger SpeakOut competition. 

This semester’s finalists, whose speeches focused on topics including suicide, sexual assault and congressional term limits, took to the stage at the Strom Thurmond Institute on Nov. 30 to compete. 

The competition provides students with the opportunity to practice their public speaking skills as well as add to their resume and win a cash prize. 

Although these incentives are a great way to encourage students to participate, this year’s first place winner, freshman Jason Culbreth, would agree that it’s for more than cash and adding to your resume. 

“I think the Tiger SpeakOut is a great way for students to express what they’re passionate about and to educate each other. This is how we grow as individuals,” he said, adding, “Even if I wouldn’t have made it this far I still would’ve come to this event.”

The emcee mentioned how hard it is every year to choose a winner because each individual speaker has a unique proponent within their topic, whether they have a personal tie or are just passionate about it.

What made Culbreth stand out were his opening words. 

“October 15, 2012 was the day I came home from school to discover my mother had committed suicide.” 

He continued his speech by talking about Tigers Together, a campus organization that focuses on suicide prevention. Because of his personal experience in 2012, Culbreth’s passion was contagious, leaving the question “How can we bring change?” up to the audience. 

However, the inspiration didn’t stop there. The second place winner Ashley Fox spoke to the audience about inequality within the public school system, focusing on the lack of funding for inner-city schools in areas with high poverty rates. 

The third place winner, Ryan Hillermeier, educated the crowd about the consequences of not limiting congressional terms to a certain number of years, arguing this causes congressmen to focus on re-elections rather than their jobs. 

Erin Wingo, who placed fourth, used her passion regarding sexual assault to develop awareness within the audience, sharing a statistic that put the issue into perspective: that one in six women are victims of sexual assault.

Fifth place winner Peter Weigman spoke to the audience about the importance of the future of driving. He started his talk by recalling the story his driver’s ed. teacher shared with him to encourage autonomous vehicles, which are capable of sensing their environment and navigating without human input.

Ighiwiyisi Omoigui, who placed sixth, informed the audience about the meaning of consent, focusing on issues such as misconceptions surrounding sexual assault. 

The next Tiger SpeakOut competition will be held in April 2017.

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