By Nichole L. Nelson
Saturday, May 7, in Providence, Rhode Island saw clouds, rain and even hail – but the sun was shining again before sunset. Everyone gathered inside the new CareNet-RI building for the Rhode Island Right to Life Dr. Mildred Jefferson Memorial High School Pro-Life Oratory Contest seemed enthusiastic that although the overall current political climate is likewise stormy, the pro-life movement will end in success.
The third annual oratory contest was the first time it was named in honor of Dr. Jefferson, a well-respected pro-life orator who helped establish the contest in RI.
Also for the first time, the competition had co-hosts, CareNet-RI and the Diocese of Providence. Carol Owens, Director of the Office of Life and Family and Coordinator of Respect Life Activities, marveled at how well everyone worked “together despite differences to spread the good news of life.”
Participants in the contest presented five to seven minute speeches on pro-life topics euthanasia, stem cell research and abortion.
Winner of the upperclassmen competition, homeschooled junior Leah Rachel Bode, spoke on embryonic stem cell research. The practice of embryonic stem cell research, Bode argued, is not only less effective than adult stem cell research but “insults equality to elevate one existence above another,” and seeks to make a “miracle into a disposable commodity.”
First and second runners up to Bode are Alisa Tirado of Immaculate Conception Academy and Sarah Hutchins, also homeschooled. Tirado spoke on euthanasia while Hutchins’ topic was care for post-abortive mothers.
The winners of the underclassmen competition are LaSalle Academy student Monica Prudencio, homeschooled student Maggie Hutchins and Immaculate Conception Academy student Kara O’Donnell. Prudencio, who spoke on abortion, won first place.
Seventeen contestants participated – more than triple since the first year. “The huge growth in our state youth program is a reflection of the national trend toward the pro-life position,” said RIRTL education coordinator Becky Miller. Former contest winner and 2011 judge Hayley Hutchins thinks this growth is a sign that “we’re going to see victory soon.”
All of this year’s contestants will be given priority should they choose to sign up for RIRTL’s next educational event. The Summer Academy is a free eight week course in pro-life issues for high school students and includes snacks and prestigious pro-life speakers. For more information or to register, call Alison at 401-521-1860 or email Alison at Alisonc@RIRTL.org.