CHRISTOPHER BARKER ’20 | STAFF WRITER • This past Wednesday evening,
the Wabash College Rhetoric Department hosted the 144th Annual Baldwin Oratorical Contest. This year’s theme centered around Crawfordsville. The finalists presented a problem that the community faced and offered a solution as to how the ordinary Crawfordsville citizen could help.
The rhetoric professors collaborated to organize this event. “The judges were selected because they incorporate civic engagement in their lives,” Jennifer Abbot, Professor of Rhetoric said. “They wield power in the community, and this contest gave the students the chance to get to know them better.”
Joseph Whitaker ‘19 kicked off the event with his talk titled ‘The Opioid Epidemic: No Man is an Island’. He started his talk with an image of a graphic billboard on E Wabash Avenue that discusses opioid abuse. “Montgomery County is ranked fifth of all Indiana counties, and the amount of children removed from homes is increasing every year,” Whitaker said. “Heroin addicts go through a cycle where they feel isolated and keep chasing this drug. Recovery Rec Center in town needs people to help. They have support groups. Halfway Home specializes in helping women recover. Volunteering will help provide them with knowledge to get their life on track. However, it is on us to help maintain these rehabilitation centers.”
Gabriel Anguiano ‘20 was next with his talk ‘2,554 Reasons Why’. “We tend to believe that US is the best in everything. However, this is not the case in primary education. The top five nations have adopted a yearly calendar. Our agricultural calendar is outdated, and kids now have nothing to do over the summer. This creates summer learning loss. If children are the future, this should be a bigger deal. A balanced calendar creates a real-life rhythm. As for the title, that is the number of students in Crawfordsville that could benefit from the year-round academic calendar.”
Ben Johnson ‘18 followed with his presentation ‘Accommodations for the Physically Disabled on Campus’. To begin, he illustrates his Wabash experience if he had a disability. “My Wabash experience would be completely altered and hindered,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t live in Sigma Chi, and I couldn’t go to Rhetoric classes and lunch talks upstairs at Center Hall; no elevators in FAC and armory and Center Hall.” While Johnson recognizes people’s willingness to accommodate, he reports how disabled people are hesitant. “The biggest problem is feeling like a burden to others,” Johnson said. “Disabled students want to be treated equally with everyone else, and we don’t offer that empowerment here. I know prospects who fell in love with the campus, but they realized Wabash wasn’t built for them.” Ben implored students to create a disability support club, administration to plan out a timeline to make every building on campus 100% accessible, and for everyone to be mindful of this issue.
Last to speak was Benjamin Manahan ‘21 with ‘Striking Back at Opioids.’ He discusses how the IndyStar reported hundreds of deaths from opioid prescriptions. He expressed the dire need to attack this by presenting how a state law could be passed to highly limit opioid use. “This law will decrease uses and spread of opioid and heroin,” Manahan said. “Texas has been making moves like this since the 2000s, and now they’re on the low end of drug overdose deaths. We Hoosiers can contact state officials. A cleaner picture of the future can be painted, but we need our state government to pick up the brush.”
This year’s winner of the Contest was Benjamin Johnson ‘18. The judges commended him and his speech for the emotionally-charged and engaging quality he displayed. “I chose this topic because I think it is important that we consider potential prospects and guests along with this in the Wabash community,” Johnson said. “Winning is a plus to this experience. My main goal was to advance to finals so I could have the opportunity to share this message with both the Wabash students and administration.”
“When judging this event, we looked for engaging speakers who identified a problem and a solution that made it easy for the community to get involved,” Michael Nosset ‘11, Baldwin Contest judge, said. “Some of the best speeches are like research papers that have an engaging, organized ‘road map’. I’m also glad to see that people still care about this Contest and about finding ways to make our community better.”