The declaimers of the 11th King’s Academy Declamation Competition that took place in May did not have the usual auditorium full of attentive teachers and peers to address. This year, due to the school’s shift to online learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the students made their speeches from home with faculty judges and classmates watching via video call. However, social-distancing rules could not put a damper on their impassioned orations; instead, it challenged them to take their performances to the next level.
A declamation is an exercise in public speaking that aims to dramatically or artistically express the full sense of the text being conveyed through articulation, emphasis and gesture. At King’s, students write their own declamations — in either Arabic or English — and so the competition provides them with the opportunity to demonstrate their skill and talent in both the written and oral art of rhetoric.
“It was a learning experience for the students and not only a competition,” said faculty member and judge Rola Jaber. “For the first time, the competitors had to address screens instead of interacting with their classmates, and they had to adapt and retain that excitement about presenting. They needed to think of ways to affect their audience by focusing more on their tone of voice, facial expressions and even the language that they use to address the listeners.”
Winning declamations touched on topics such as: what makes us human?; the impossible and conflicting societal standards women are expected to live up to; the enduring connection and love for our homeland, Palestine; why we need to be the instigators of the change we want to see in the place we are right now rather than seeking it out elsewhere; the plight of besieged Gazan residents under occupation; and how both speech and silence can be wielded to great effect.
Tala Salman '20 and Rajaie Asbah '23 were crowned the winners of the Arabic declamations while Lara Abuali '23 won the English competition. Mohammad Allabadi '22 and Yazan Alrayyes '21 were the runners up in the Arabic competition and Tara Abu Ghazaleh '22 was the runner up in the English competition.
Congratulations to all the winners and participants!