By Khandi Wilson
The theme for the 29th Annual Robert N. Murrell Oratorical Contest was “Celebrating a Legacy of Pride and Progress”. This year, the Department of Communications allotted more students to participate in this event; a total of 36 students had the opportunity to showcase their oratorical skills to kick off Homecoming week. The event, like many of TSU events, has a history that dates back to 1988.
The contest first started when Mr. Marion Spears, director of Boyd Hall, had members of TSU’s football team, who resided in Boyd Hall at the time, participate in this enriching experience of bettering their own public speaking skills and improving the acumen of their thoughts they were expressing to the audience. The spectacle took flight from there was then offered to all students to share their gifts. By this change, the Oratorical Contest was included into Homecoming Week and its theme was therefore incorporated into the Contest.
The admittance of 36 students into this year’s Contest was allowed by the generous donation of increased funds by the Robert N. Murrell Scholarship Fund which had the ability to give $1,200 to the first place winner, $800 for the second place winner, and $500 to the third place winner for both the freshman and upperclassmen orators. All the speakers did a fantastic job while mentioning the triumphs and recognitions made by individuals who have helped TSU get national attention like Wilma Rudolph, Ed Temple, and Oprah Winfrey. Some orators also included recent political matters like the Black Lives Matter movement, President Obama’s legacy, the Civil Rights Movement and the Aristocrat of Bands performance at the White House. The students did not fail to mention black excellence and the direct call of racism within this country.
History was made today and barriers were broken in terms of persistence and will by the courageous 36 individuals who took the stage in the Forum this afternoon. Nothing short of honesty was expressed by the orators and their will to change and convince the students, faculty, and staff of this illustrious University to be better individuals and leaders in this community and to Tennessee State University—for if they make strides towards greatness so does the University.