To speak or not to speak?
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To speak or not to speak?

“To be, or not to be, that is the question.”

Pop quiz: Who said that?

Half marks if you said Shakespeare. Full marks if you said Hamlet. Bonus points if you said the words are those of Hamlet, prince of Denmark, from the play Hamlet written by William Shakespeare.

That’s how Maggie LaRonde begins her very animated and enthusiastic speech about the great Bard for the provincial finals in public speaking held through the Royal Canadian Legion.

The 15-year-old home-schooled student from Breslau has been preparing her speech since last October, rewriting it several times. The initial draft came in just under nine minutes, which was two minutes too long for the Legion’s public speaking contest.

“It takes a while to write it and draft it because of the time limit on the Legion speeches. I really had to cut it down and revise it. I start really early so I have a lot of time to make any corrections or revisions that may be needed, plus I like to memorize it since I find cue cards a distraction,” said LaRonde.

The Legion usually draws its public speakers from schools but the art of public speaking is disappearing from the class rooms, said Maggie’s mother Lori.

“Schools value the concept of being able to speak in front of people, but the work that goes into it for teachers to teach kids to write a speech and then put aside the time to listen to 20 kids speak for three minutes. It is huge, and they don’t do it anymore,” said Lori. “It really has become parent driven.”

Having two home-schooled children, Lori has had to do a lot of the leg work to get her daughters, Maggie and her little sister Jackie, into the public speaking contest.

“The home school associations value (public speaking) and put on a lot of meets. That has helped the girls perfect their skills, but I have had to make a lot of phone calls to find out which branch is holding a public speaking meet and then entered my children into it,” she explained.

Public speaking is not new to Maggie, who has been participating in the Legion contests for years. She has managed to develop the perfect pitch for her speeches, realizing over the years that informative speeches with only hard facts are often over looked for a more entertaining fare with little substance.

Choosing to speak about Shakespeare was a bit of a risk for Maggie, who wanted to keep her audience informed but still entertained.

“I really enjoy reading his plays. Not a lot of kids today share my interest in Shakespeare but I wanted to show Shakespeare as I see him as a playwriting genius whose stuff is really good if you just take a moment to read it,” said Maggie. “I have some facts and some funny comical moments in my speech and that mixture seems to be working for me.”

Maggie has won four levels this season in public speaking. Her first win came in February at Branch 50 in Kitchener and she continued to dominate the stage by winning and advancing at zone in Hespeler, district in Palmerston and at area in Toronto. She competes at provincials in Niagara Falls today (Saturday).

This is the first time she has made it to the provincial level, where she will be competing against four other contestants in her category which gives her a one-in-four chance of winning.

“I am not that nervous just more excited for the opportunity and the chance to win the $1,000 grand prize.”

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