Be the Inspiration

Fair Oaks, CA  |  By Shaunna Boyd
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Local students competed in the Fair Oaks Rotary’s annual speech contest: (left to right) Jane Liaghat, a junior at Bella Vista; Marissa Postlethwaite, a freshman at Sacramento Waldorf; Briana Le, a freshman at Bella Vista; Owen Kurth, a senior at Bella Vista; and Charlie Bingaman, a senior at Sacramento Waldorf. Photo by Shaunna Boyd

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Local students competed in the Fair Oaks Rotary’s annual speech contest with the support of their family and invited guests. Photo by Shaunna Boyd

Youth Compete in the Annual Rotary Speech Contest

FAIR OAKS, CA (MPG) - On March 11, the Rotary Club of Fair Oaks hosted an annual speech contest for local high school students. This year’s topic was “Be the Inspiration.”

Charlie Bingaman, a senior at Sacramento Waldorf, took first place. Owen Kurth, a senior at Bella Vista

High School, took second place. Briana Le, a freshman at Bella Vista, placed third. Bella Vista junior Jane Liaghat and Sacramento Waldorf freshman Marissa Postlethwaite tied for fourth place.

Postlethwaite explained that today’s teens can sometimes feel an intense fear of failure.

They believe they need to maintain perfect grades and an active social life — all while excelling at various sports and extra-curricular activities. But Postlethwaite suggested that the teen years should be spent exploring new things to discover their own passions, not measuring themselves against the successes of others.

She shared a quote from Ghandi: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him…We need not wait to see what others do.” She said that instead of waiting on the actions of others we should begin inspiring others by inspiring ourselves.

Liaghat began her speech by speaking in her native tongue to give the audience an idea of

how she felt when she first came to the United States two years ago and couldn’t yet speak or understand English. She was very close with her extended family in Iran, so it was difficult for her to leave them behind when her family moved here. When she began attending school here, her grades suffered because she couldn’t understand what the teachers were saying.

She also felt very lonely and had a hard time making friends since she couldn’t communicate with anyone.

Liaghat said that everyone has hard moments in life but “you can’t run away from the fight, because that is running away from life.” She said the most important thing is to keep working toward your goals to make your dreams come true.

In her speech, Le defined inspirational people as those who demonstrate kindness in their everyday lives. Le shared a story of selling raffle tickets while volunteering at a Rotary dinner. She sold a man a ticket but then he told her she should give the ticket away to someone else. Le was inspired by that small act of kindness, and she said she sees now that the world is full of small moments of kindness that inspire kindness in others.

She suggested that a community can become a better place if everyone practices acts of kindness every day. That community could then inspire other communities and—like drops of water can spread ripples across a pond—eventually those acts of kindness “can make the world a better place.” Le encouraged everyone to perform acts of kindness, start the ripples, and be the inspiration.

Kurth told the story of a 10-year-old boy in Wisconsin who, after his father passed away, worked three jobs to help his mother with the family finances. That boy got a full scholarship to college where he studied engineering. He then joined the Airforce and eventually began a career working at the Pentagon. That man was Kurth’s grandfather—and his inspiration. His grandfather was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and Kurth was visibly emotional as he shared just how grateful he is to have heard his grandfather’s life story while he can still tell it. Although humility and modesty are often praised as important qualities, Kurth said he believes “they aren’t as important as inspiration.” Therefore, he believes that instead of keeping quiet about challenges and accomplishments, people should share their stories to inspire others.

Bingaman explained that everyone follows in the footsteps of those who have come before, and that the most influential people lead by example. People impact each other in many small ways every day, and he said it’s important to remember that “small acts make a difference.” He strives to act as a role model and always be kind because everyone is busy fighting their own battles. Bingaman spent time in Germany and met some refugees who were seeking asylum there. He was inspired by their determination and was glad to offer them friendship during a difficult time. Inspiration is about day-to-day progress. He asked, “Whose life will be better in the future because of your choices?” Bingaman suggested that everyone should set an example for others to follow.

All five contestants were awarded monetary prizes as well as certificates honoring their inspirational speeches. As the first-place winner, Bingaman will move on to compete in one of four semifinals for Rotary District 5180 in the hope of making it to the finals at the District Conference in May.