Auburn Speaks, the Auburn public speaking competition, took place on April 6 at the Jay and Susie Gogue Performing Arts Center.
This competition has been present at Auburn since March 2017 and was created to showcase the great speeches that Auburn students give each semester and to memorialize a former Auburn communications student and football player.
“I had two ideas in mind when I created this competition,” said Jennifer Johnson, the director of the public speaking program. “The first was it was a way that we could really showcase and highlight the great speeches that we see every semester but they just weren’t getting any attention beyond the grade that they received in the classroom.”
Johnson expressed that this competition was also created to remember Philip Lutzenkirchen, former Auburn student. The award for the public speaking competition was named after him.
Shortly after that, the competition received several grants including one from Lutzenkirchen’s family who created the Lutz 43 foundation in honor of their son Philip. Now Auburn Speaks awards up to $4,300.
“The amount 4,300 is directly linked to Philips number when he played as a tight end at Auburn, his number was 43,” Johnson said.
Each speech that the competitors give is based on the informative speech that they gave in their public speaking class. The students voted on who in their class will move forward to the semi-final round. During the semi-final round, there were 73 students and only six were selected to compete in the final competition.
The first speaker was Saksham Goel, junior in computer science. Goel’s speech was about blockchain technology, talking specifically about cryptocurrency and bitcoin. The next speaker was Brooke Gordon, freshman in the exploratory major, who did her speech on the topic of rejection (especially when dating), and the types of rejection people face throughout life.
Then the audience heard from Annabelle Lacy, freshman in speech pathology. Her topic was the importance of community theater. She explained what community theater is and walked the audience through the steps of putting on a production.
The next competitor to speak was Audrey Osborne, sophomore in accounting. She gave her speech on how to file your taxes as tax season approaches.
Then, Abigail Stephenson, freshman in history, took the stage and gave a speech on the royal wedding, specifically Kate Middleton’s and Prince William’s wedding. Stephenson highlighted three main characteristics of the wedding; The joining of two families, the fashion and the feast.
Lastly, the audience heard from Brooke Tarrant, senior in neuroscience major. Tarrant gave her speech on the “happiest country in the world”. She told the audience a few facts about Finland, which is the happiest country in the world, statistically. Tarrant then went on to explain their customs and what we can learn from them.
Philip Lutzenkirchen’s father, Mike Lutzenkirchen, came on stage to speak about a topic important to him. On June 20, 2014, Mike Lutzenkirchen’s son Philip passed away in a tragic car accident. Lutzenkirchen spoke about the importance of practicing safe driving.
After the judges finished deliberating it was time to announce the winner. Coming in second and third place were Annabelle Lacy and Saksham Goel, respectively. The winner of Auburn’s public speaking competition was Abigail Stephenson.
Stephenson expressed her gratitude to her public speaking professor, Rebecca Kitchens, the Auburn school communications and journalism, and Mike Lutzenkirchen for giving her this opportunity.
Stephenson’s idea for her speech was inspired by her interest in history.
We were talking about the different categories you could do an informative speech on and one of them was events,” Stephenson said. “I was like oh perfect I’m a history major I can do this. And honestly, it just came into my mind. I was genuinely interested in my topic and I truly find the British monarchy to be so fascinating.”
At the end of the competition, Stephenson was given the opportunity to meet Mike Lutzenkirchen.
“It really brought the whole night to its true purpose. At the end of the day, it was started by the Lutz foundation and we wouldn’t be standing up there if it wasn’t for him and the foundation and what they put on. It was a really humbling moment to get to shake his hand, get a picture with him, and to tell him thank you,” Stephenson said.