Olivia Keslick used to be painfully shy.
Her parents, Kelly and Lisa, recall how she once gripped a friend’s hand to find the resolve to face an audience. That was when she was 5.
Fast forward 10 years, and a very different Olivia will stand before a crowd. She experiences nerves, of course – but they never overwhelm her. In fact, they seem to give her an edge.
The proof is in her outstanding performances in this year’s 4-H public speaking competitions, two of which were held virtually. A member of the Maple Creek Multiple 4-H Club, she achieved first-place finishes at club, district, and regional level.
Then came her biggest achievement, taking first place in the intermediate category of the May 15-16 Saskatchewan public speaking contest. Second was Marleigh Mann, a member of the Northminster 4-H Beef Club, while third place went to Isabelle Erickson, a member of the Elcapo Lighthorse 4-H Club.
“It was unbelievable,” said Olivia last week. “I thought it was my best presentation, but I never expected to win. It’s pretty awesome.”
Naturally, Kelly and Lisa were extremely proud of Olivia, who is following a family tradition: her elder sister, Kaitlyn, performed at senior level in the provincials, when she was only 16.
The couple can testify to the amount of work Olivia devoted to her speech, regularly walking around the house rehearsing her presentation out loud. By the time, she got to going public, she had committed the speech to memory.
She had the back-up of little cards as an aide-mémoire, but preferred not to use them.
“It’s much better when you’re not constantly looking down at notes,” said Kelly, who as Maple Creek’s arena manager has long experience of public speaking.
There were 32 participants in the provincial contest, which was held via Zoom because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The four age groups were Cloverbuds (6-8); Juniors (9-12); Intermediates (13-15) and the Seniors (16-21).
Contestants are judged on material and presentation.
Material includes the appropriateness of the topic, the introduction, content, conclusion and composition. Presentation covers voice and manner.
To make the event extra special, each competitor was mailed out a care package, complete with local goodies from different parts of the province.
Olivia, secretary of the Maple Creek Multiple 4-H Club, wrote her own speech on the theme of technology.
This paper found the speech so impressive and so relevant to today’s world that we decided to print it in full.
When the time came to deliver her speech, Olivia went to her bedroom, while her parents stayed in the living room.
Even though it was aired on the internet, Olivia behaved as if she were on stage. She dressed smartly, in pants, shirt, vest and tie. It was how she had appeared at club level, performing at the Elks Hall, and at district level in Consul.
Kelly and Lisa sat anxiously through the performances leading up to Olivia’s big moment.
“We were nervous,” said Kelly. “Any parent would be.”
They needn’t have worried. Olivia’s hard work paid off. From the content and composition of her speech, to her confidence and enthusiasm, she excelled.
Cera Youngson, executive director of 4-H Saskatchewan, has called public speaking as one of the organization’s proudest decades-long traditions.
She said the quality of speeches always leaves her impressed.
“Our members rose to the challenge of presenting their speeches in a new way this year in a virtual live format. Each member should be proud of advancing to this prestigious ‘stage’ through their club, district, and regional competitions.”
The judges obviously agreed with her assessment, for they commented on the high quality of the presentations and the participants’ adaptability in using the Zoom platform. Yes, Olivia, who is thinking about becoming an English teacher, has come a long, long way from that shy five-year-old.
• Next year’s event is expected to return to its in-person format in Middle Lake, Saskatchewan.
Here is the speech that Olivia wrote and presented at 4-H public speaking competitions:
So many people treat life as a constant status update. It’s as if they are more concerned with how their lives feel. Social media is like self-destruction in daily instalments.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, fellow 4-H members, honourable judges, and madam chair.
My name is Olivia Keslick and I think it’s time for all of us to open our eyes. Right now, we are all living life with our eyes closed, stumbling in the darkness of social media, and being more captivated by the newest tiktok or snapshot story than what our eyes can see all around us.
What happened to the times where we could all run around outside, wear watches and watch the street lamps to know when to head home, or have a simple conversation over the phone? I know what some of you might be thinking, ‘Oh, but we evolved, we created and made technology better, and advanced our society’. But is this what really happened?
To me, I see kids obsessed with their phones, friends sitting next to each other instead of talking, people staying inside to watch seasons of football that they have already seen live, people bringing themselves down by their obsession to dance like somebody else on tiktok, or fretting over sending a cute selfie to a boy that they have never even met.
Is this really where we want our future to go? To a day where reading, writing, correct spelling, mathematics, friendship, self-love, history, and our reality are forgotten, only to be replaced with technology creating images of ourselves that will never be true, creating fake friendships, and losing what we love because we have become so focused on our snapshot stories that we have forgotten what’s really important?
Is this a life you would live in? Most of you would say no, others would say that it’s impossible and would never happen. Bit it will, and it has already begun.
Gone are the days that people would seal deals with a handshake, get together to bike around town, playing chase, or trust someone because their word was their bond.
Now we make deals with people we have never met, never seen, never talked to, and never trusted.
Now we all change password after password, scared that someone could steal all the information that we have stored in technology. We have become so reliant on technology that most of us wouldn’t know what to do without it.
Our technology has become so ingrained in our lifestyle, that most don’t know what life was like before we had technology.
Lots of people say that technology has made life much easier, and I agree. It has made life much easier, but maybe too easy.
Life is supposed to be an adventure, filled with ups and downs, struggles to overcome, hard work, and happy memories that could never be captured by a simple picture. But now we have people that will never know what hard work looks like.
Scientists continue to work on and evolve technology, their goal is to get to a stage where technology could helps us with anything.
But if we have a piece of technology that can make us breakfast, what stops us from never getting out of bed? If we could have a piece of technology that would play with us, what stops us from losing human contact and never having friends?
If we could have technology that does our job for us, what stops us from never leaving our houses and never knowing what life could be like?
We have lost sight of what we want our lives to look like.
Our judgment has become so clouded by the “amazing” possibilities that technology could bring us and, in doing so, we’ve forgotten what we’re here for.
Our purpose is to enjoy life. To live a life filled with purpose and memories that are forever ingrained in our brains. But instead we head to a life filled with loneliness, sadness, depression, and fear. The only way for us to stop our lives from turning into the things we never want it to become is to stop and think.
Is technology the advancement that we really need? Is it something we really want? Is it something that we want to become so attached to that we can never let it go? How far is too far when it comes to technology?
I’ll leave you to answer those questions for yourselves. I hope that i have helped you all to open your eyes, and please remember that life is about the journey, not the destination.