This weekend I had the good fortune to serve as a judge for a Sikh youth speech competition. I participated in such competitions quite a bit in my own youth and to be honest…I hated them!
I felt the books were boring, the questions too limiting, and the guidelines too restrictive. Or maybe I disliked it so much because I never placed well 🙂 Either way, I recall at one point as a teenager vowing never to participate again, after all – why should any aspect of my faith or understanding of Sikhi be measured by a panel of judges? So there I was yesterday on the panel of judges…what can I say? The sixteen year old within me is very disappointed!
The competition itself went by quickly – speaker after speaker went up, we quickly filled out our evaluations, prizes were awarded, and I was back in my car heading home. But during my drive, I began to think, what if the judges were given an opportunity to speak today? What would I have said? What could I have offered these youth…or better yet, what do I wish was said to me as I sat in their place years ago?
After pondering these thoughts along with inspiration from a story I heard a few months back, I decided to do something I’ve never done before. As odd as it may sound, even though the event was over, I wrote my speech anyway. And, well…here it is:
As I watched your presentations today – it dawned on me – that by listening to your six minute speech, I have no idea what you’ve really learned. I haven’t a clue what you’ve truly understood of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur’s life, what lessons you took from it, what principles you have internalized, or what aspects you’ve applied to your life. To simply put it…I cannot measure your conviction.
So instead, I judge you on your talent. How well you articulated your answers, your delivery, diction, style, eye contact, how well you “captivated” us. And at the end of the day, the most talented will win.
But I do believe…at some point in your life, you will face challenges.
And the principles you read about in these books will be realized.
See I participated in these same competitions decades ago, but many of whom I competed with, are not identifiable Sikhs anymore…even those who won first place trophies. Some have chosen to leave the faith altogether.
As a Sikh, you will be challenged…I guarantee it. Be it external challenges, internal…or both
At such a time, you will have the choice to respond like a Banda Singh Bahdaur – with courage, with bravery, with valor…or not.
And when you face these challenges, I can assure you…it will not be your talent that will matter
It will be your conviction
So I hope through this process you have all become better public speakers, it’s an invaluable skill to have both for your academic and professional life ahead. But deep down, My ardaas is that you have not simply read these books for the purpose of competition, but instead you have reflected on these amazing jewels of our history, you have internalized the principles you’ve learned…
And tucked it away for safe keeping.
So that whenever challenge comes your way, in whatever shape or form it may come…
You will be ready
March 21st, 2011 at 4:23 am
Veerji,Very well done. I am a newer member to sikhi, about 4-5 years now. I did not grow up doing these competitions but feel the point that you are getting across. Again, very well done and I cant wait for the next one.
March 21st, 2011 at 4:43 am
Dear Rubin,Simply & beautifully said…your words resonate with me and my childhood memories, Thanks for sharing; My score card for your "unspoken" speech: content: 10+ pts, style: 10+ delivery:10+ overall impact: Priceless!!!
March 21st, 2011 at 7:44 pm
Rubin beta, very well said indeed. I always ask my judges to say something. With your permission I would like to share your speech with my participants in future.simrat kaur
March 23rd, 2011 at 6:10 pm
Rubin Paul Singh Ji, What you have shared here is very beautiful. I would really like to email you and ask you about a some other things that I have yet to find in your blog. Can you post your email address here? Or how can I get in touch with you?Thank you!
March 24th, 2011 at 3:12 pm
Thank you everybody for your thoughtful comments!Ellery Singh, look forward to hearing more of your experiences as a newer member of 'the Fauj'Jyoti from NJ, I'm totally not worthy of those scores 🙂 But speaking of speech competition memories…I always took comfort when the judges told me "you are all winners to us" :)Simrat AuntieJi, You're more than welcome to share the post with your participants. Thanks for all the seva that you do!Anonymous Ji, thanks for your feedback. I'm not really an expert on any topic, but more of a facilitator…please share your topics with the rest of the group as a comment here…perhaps others can weigh in – but if you feel more comfortable emailing, you can send it email@example.comGuru Fateh!
April 15th, 2011 at 7:50 pm
I am going through the same phase as a parent of one such speaker. We are more focused on the delivery of the speech and presentation than the take away from the process. I will make a note to myself to provide some key takeaways to my son. Thanks.