GSB Upper Schoolers Host “Knight of Public Speaking”

Last Friday, members of the Upper School Public Speaking Club took the stage in the Matthews Theater to present-thought-provoking speeches and TED-style presentations in Gill’s “Knight of Public Speaking”.

The event, a continuation of previous year’s TEDxGSB, featured four student presenters who each gave either a traditional or TED-style speech on a topic of their choice. To prepare for their talk, the Public Speaking Club held weekly meetings with Advisor Mr. Flanagan to workshop their speeches and offer peer feedback. Junior Sophia Mariano, a co-captain of the Public Speaking Club, served as the evening’s Master of Ceremonies to introduce each presenter.

“The students did an incredible job in preparing for their speeches,” said Mr. Flanagan. “While we did have plenty of meetings and rehearsals, most of the work on the speeches was done independently, and I could not be prouder of our students' diligence and dedication in how they approached their topics.” 

“How I’m Facing by Biggest Fear” - Olivia Soultanian ’22

Olivia Soultanian returned to the Public Speaking Club to serve as this year’s senior captain. Her speech titled, “How I’m facing my Biggest Fear,” was a topic stemming from her fear of public speaking.

“I chose my topic because I wanted to talk about something common and relatable for high school students,” said Olivia. “I knew I wasn’t the only person who feared public speaking, and I wondered why. I wanted to help myself and others understand that public speaking isn’t nearly as scary as it sometimes appears.”

Unique among the evening’s speakers, this was Olivia’s second attempt at performing this speech because COVID-19 canceled her first attempt.

“Participating in the event was incredible,” reflected Olivia. “I was scared when I first walked on stage, but when I finished, I remember feeling a lot of relief and being so happy that I challenged myself to step out of my comfort zone.”

“Freedom in Finance” - Rohan Nagpaul ’23

Junior Rohan Nagpaul used his speech, “Freedom in Finance”, to discuss the need for greater financial literacy education in schools.

“I have always aspired to enter the field of business when I am older and a lot of that entails money management,” said Rohan. “When I saw that students, just like me, lack basic financial skills, it really led me to do some research. After meeting with the public speaking club for many months, I came to the conclusion that this would be the best time to present my research and make a case for students my age.” 

“Participating (in the event) felt great because I saw that my months of effort finally came to be something successful. One moment that stood out to me was the applause at the end because all the nerves I had left my body and I felt proud of myself for completing such a big task.” 

“Out of Control” - Stephanie Vasquez ’22

In her talk, “Out of Control”, Senior Stephanie Vasquez, used research and personal anecdotes to discuss methods for how individuals can handle stress.

"I've always come to feel out of control when situations don't go according to plan," said Stephanie "Because of this, I chose to learn ways to feel in control of my emotional state to better myself and share with others."

"There aren't many events like Knight of Public Speaking at Gill, or opportunities for public speaking as a whole, so I believe that events like this one are important to give students the opportunities to face their fears in public speaking and talk about a topic that they're passionate about."


“The Value of Anger” - Stephanie Lu ’23


In her talk, “The Value of Anger”, junior Stephanie We spoke about how anger is often overlooked as an emotion and how individuals can properly recognize it and control it in a positive way.

"I was drawn to this topic after experiencing anger within myself from the stress of all my schoolwork,” commented Stephanie. “While writing my speech, I reflected upon my emotions during that short period of time and never realized I had so much to talk about.”

“The days leading up to the event were very stressful, especially with memorizing the speech and repeatedly rehearsing it. I was able to find time to practice though, so on the day of the event, I wasn't as stressed as I expected myself to be. While I waited, I found myself taking deep breaths to calm myself down, and surprisingly, I felt calm during the actual speech and relieved once it was over. On the other hand, I was always excited to have the opportunity to perform a TED-style talk, so I was definitely looking forward to this event ever since I heard about it!”

“I believe the Knight of Public Speaking event is a great part of the GSB community. The speeches were allowed to be on anything we were passionate about and having the opportunity to really speak out on the chosen topic gave the students a chance to share their ideas with the community. Not many students have this opportunity, so I wanted to take advantage of it.”

Unable to attend? Be sure to rewatch the Knight of Public Speaking here!

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