Blowing Eloquence in the Wind

By Laetitia Laali

Thursday, October 20th, 6 PM : D101 is on fire. The jury composed of Olivier Ruchet, James Muldoon, Helen Yu, Nicholas Dungan, Paul Priam & Anne-Celia Feutrie observes the six finalists take a seat in the front row. The members of Sciences Polémiques take the stage to introduce the contestants and the jury amidst a thunder of clapping and rock music. A night of outstanding eloquence is ready to unfold!

It is Caroline Rice who opens the ceremony with her prompt inspired by The Smiths and their iconic song “How Soon is Now”. She doesn’t choose the easy path and decides to focus on the refugee crisis and the imperative to remind the US of their role. She concludes that “now is the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past”. Bold, determined – now is definitely soon enough for Caroline to show her talents of rhetoric!

Martin Gilbert follows suit with a playful tribute to Rock & Roll, responding to the prompt “Should we build a stairway to heaven or block the highway to hell?” We know that the road leading to the highway to hell is unfortunately easy to fall onto, whether it is through “IPs, the heat of the Lux club or a 10,000 word essay assigned by Olivier Ruchet”. Nevertheless, hope remains: “Yes we can!” claims Martin, “Yes we can build our stairway to heaven, whether it is made of metal or of rock n roll”.

Benedetta Schiavon then invites us on a poetic journey to avoid “Walking the Line” as it is the “best way to (Folsom) prison”. She decides to take us sailing through the Mediterranean, her memories, and our life choices. Walking the straight line leads us to prison, but not any prison: “a prison that has the shape of a line, that resides in the human mind.” So to all of us who feel the prison of the line, Benedetta suggests “to take the helm, hold strongly the sheet in our fist, and sail away”.

Here comes Zak Vescera, entering the stage accompanied by David Bowie’s “Heroes”, with whom he will answer the ultimate question “Can we be heroes, just for one day?” Zak, without any notes, reminds us that heroes are all around us: “Saturday morning cartoons. Winston Churchill. Jesus. Matthew Baker,” but that “our real heroes aren’t people we look up to, but those at our sides”. Zak reminds us that one does not have to strive to be a hero, because to the ones that matter, we all already are heroes.

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5” Alexandra Junge counts as “Born to Be Wild” from Steppenwolf resounds in the room. “In the past few seconds”, she says, “20 homosapiens have been born, in the captivity that is society”. She warns us of this “zoo”, where we are forced to conform, of the “expectations and enclosures that we built”, “obsessed like we are by an artificial success”. But Alexandra passionately advocates hope: hope in the ones that are “wild in their convictions”, hope in “the few that can retrieve their inner wilderness, that can revive their inner instincts and rebel”.

Robin Leforestier finishes by taking us on a “Walk on the Wild Side” with Lou Reed. A walk on the wild side, is where we are “looking for adventure, some risk, a thrill, something new”. It is an adventure, because the wild side is where nobody ever goes: “Plantin’s lectures for example!” Robin encourages us to not fear the wild side, or our own wild side: but to “cherish it, as it will save us”.

It is now time for the jury to leave the room and discuss their impressions. After long minutes of deliberations, the jury made its choice: the third prize goes to Martin, the second prize to Caroline, and the first prize is awarded to Zak!

Zak will represent the campus at the Prix Richard Descoings in January in Le Havre. Surrounded by congratulations and Champagne, Zak remains humble and states how he “did not expect to win after listening to such magnificent speeches”. He enjoyed how everybody’s speech was “very unique” and how “each contestant had a different way of approaching it”. He dedicates his award to his everyday heroes: his colocs, his siblings and his parents, who “inspired the direction of the speech”.

The Autumn Invitational, Sciences Polémiques’ first big event of the year was a great success; we are looking forward to new workshops and contests! Always speak up, try out, you never know, you might be the next star in Paul Emiques’s sky. For now, take the stance of Aerosmith, and do not forget to Dream On.

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