[Letters] Ban Ki-moon English contest

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[Letters] Ban Ki-moon English contest

Recently, I had the rare opportunity to participate in the Third Annual Ban Ki-moon English Contest, sponsored by the North Chungcheong Office of Education. Upon my arrival at the auditorium of the Cheongju Education & Science Research Institute, both parents and students were huddling for their final pep talk before the main event. After a short briefing with fellow judges and organizing officials, the opening ceremony for the anticipated event had begun.

Months of preparation and painstaking efforts to overcome the qualifying hurdles had apparently helped to propel them into the final round. Indeed, the duel of champions was officially under way. And only minor errors and discernible flaws in their performances would separate the grand prize winners from the gold, silver and bronze contestants.

At the urging of the organizing officials, I joined the panel of judges to begin the evaluation process. For the next 90 minutes, elementary, middle and high school students from across the nation ascended the stage for their finest oratorical presentations.

Having a ringside seat to this grand event was indeed my good fortune.

Both the audience and judges were treated to eloquent and passionate pleas about pertinent issues of today. We were assuaged, beseeched, charmed, entertained and enlightened. The speakers shared their views about various topics that pulled at our heartstrings, pricked our collective conscience and elicited subconscious approvals for their petitions. There were dramatizations, oratorical exhibitions and poetry; even verses set to music.

Ultimately, the panel of judges was charged with the daunting task of identifying and evaluating the critical components and unique qualities of the speeches and speakers. This enabled us to discern distinctive qualities that differentiated the grand prize speeches from those worthy of gold, silver and bronze. Given the impressive display of self-confidence, outstanding performances and the contestants’ appealing stage presence, that was no easy task. Still, we did what was required of us.

By relying on our intuitive knowledge and keen judgment, we assigned accurate scores to individual speakers. In the end, the top performers emerged from the corps of outstanding orators. Hence, a group of 18 elementary, middle and high school students were awarded the distinguished honor of touring the United States and visiting the United Nations headquarters. While there, they are scheduled to meet UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Fortunately, those who missed the top honors were recognized by Governor Jeong Woo-taek of North Chungcheong. Beside the 18 who won the U.S. tour, all the students are deserving of commendations for their exemplary efforts to acquire communicative competence in English. The panel of judges agrees that they are all scholars in their own right.

No doubt, if they are willing to persevere until they obtain the top prize in this and other competitive endeavors, success is within their reach. It is my hope that they will continue their pursuit of excellence in the study of English and other subjects. If they do this, they will naturally become winners in the game of life.

Despite the open admission of some students who have lived and studied in Australia, Canada, the U.K. and U.S., I was heartened by those who didn’t have such a privilege. Why? Because they had no trouble capturing awards of equal value to their traveling peers.

This seems to suggest that hard-working students can be proficient users of English without the advantage of an overseas language training course.

Carlton U. Forbes,

English teacher at Kwang-hye Won Middle School
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