Article Contributed by
Jamestown Public Schools
Jamestown High School 2017 Graduate, Matthew Leon, recently placed eighth in the world at the Optimist Oratorical World Championships in St. Louis. Leon was one of 49 contestants from around the world, including the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Russia, Afghanistan, and Myanmar, among others. Those 49 contestants competed to secure one of eight spots in the global final round, each one of the eight representing a different region of the world. Leon made it to the World Championship final round, representing the North East/Great Lakes region, including the whole New England area, parts of Canada, and the Great Lakes States. For placing in the top eight, Leon was presented with a check for $5,000.
“The Optimist Oratorical World Championship was an experience I will never forget. Just being at St. Louis and meeting my fellow contestants was an awe-inspiring moment of my life,” said Leon. “During the three-day competition, I made friends with and learned about people from the Caribbean and Canada, not to mention far away U.S. states like California, Alabama, Virginia, and Indiana. Winning the scholarship money was simply a bonus. The true prize of this competition is not the money, it’s the experience of being able to share my speech with people around the world, to meet optimistic, hardworking, and fun-loving people, and to use these skills I’ve learned during this competition throughout my whole life.”
The contestants were judged on the content of their speeches and the quality of their delivery. Three judges judged the regional finals and five judges who were all bilingual in English and French, the two languages allowed by the rules of the competition, judged the final round.
Leon’s trip to the World Championships began at the Optimist Club Oratorical Contest in Jamestown, then winning the WNY competition in Lockport, and finally being crowned the State/New England area champion in Utica.
If you would like to view Leon’s speech go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tw44ff1uERg. His speech begins at approximately the 6:58 mark.
Leon is attending Vanderbilt University in the fall to double major in computer science and music.