Woke up on the morning of the 19th of April, as nervous as one could possibly be, and headed to school to practice my speech one last time. I practiced by myself at first and later on, in front of the senior 2 students. It was time. The speech I had been preparing for the past month and a half with the help of Ceci Lasa, my literature teacher, and practicing day after day endlessly.
When we first started preparing this speech we wrote down the topic “Integrity has no need of rules” on the whiteboard and our first thought was “what is integrity?” We looked it up on the internet and arrived at a definition. Wrote it down. We then set out to plan how I intended to deliver my speech or at least what I planned to say, we came up with the idea of Martin Luther King and how he was an example of the topic. I then thought of using a personal instance or event I could relate with integrity. At first my main goal was to actually write a speech, I say this because when Ceci offered me to participate in the Public Speaking Competition I turned down the offer because I didn’t believe I was capable of confronting such task. Ceci insisted that I was capable of doing it. I took her up on her offer because I realised that if she didn’t truly believe that I was able to write and deliver a speech she wouldn’t have offered it to me in the first place and wouldn’t have asked me again and again. When I first gave the speech in front of the secondary school classes and later on at the British Embassy it was no easy job but what made it easier was the fact that I truly meant what I said, I wasn’t just saying this to appeal to the judges or the other participants and put on a show. After we had a draft of the speech it was just a matter of practicing endlessly and fine tuning it, even until the last minute. Bautista Rodriguez Piola came to the school a week before I had to deliver my speech to help me do it to the best of my abilities.
On Monday, April 18 I gave my speech in front of the whole of secondary school. The Tuesday after that, after having practiced one last time at school I went to the British Embassy. When I arrived at the embassy there were 34 more students just like me waiting impatiently. I was number 25 of 35 on the schedule. The event started at 12:30 and after 4 hours of hearing 24 speeches back to back I was up. As you can imagine I couldn’t have been more nervous. At first I felt like my heart was going to explode but once I started speaking I calmed down. I would say I did a pretty good job. There were some amazing speeches. It was a once in a lifetime experience and I had a blast.
Compartimos también las palabras de su Coach, la profesora Cecilia Lasa quién acompañó a Balta en este enriquecedor proyecto:
Unlike any other participation in the Public Speaking Competition I have had the opportunity to contribute to or watch, Baltasar Qüerio’s proved challenging at two levels, at least. On the one hand, the topic initially appeared to be not only complex but also a bit uninviting for a teenager: »Integrity has no need of rules» is almost a philosophical subject, difficult to narrow down so as to produce an original speech. On the other hand, it is a topic that involves the speaker, his ideas and beliefs. Balta could not remain oblivious to what integrity meant for him. He would be necessarily exposing his principles… and exposing himself. In that difficulty, surprisingly, Balta found the spot where he could be original.
He first shared a personal query: what could be of such importance so as to be beyond rules? To answer this question, he did some research into the definition of the word and its historical implications. He also provided a personal anecdote. In doing so, he realised that what was at stake was his own integrity: to what extent would he go for the sake of winning the contest? To the extent his integrity allowed because, he concluded, integrity ruled.
The whole process of preparing the speech was related to Balta’s integrity. To begin with, our weekly meetings tested his integrity since hard work was expected when choosing a word instead of another one, when organising the information into paragraphs, when rehearsing in front of me, friends, Isa, mates, teachers and authorities. Yet, the testing moment was, of course, that never-ending sequence of five minutes when Balta delivered his speech in front of an unknown audience and the board. Further, after his speech was over, he was asked two defying questions by the most feared member of the board, which he, self-confident, answered in a very solid fashion. Balta’s performance was spotless, which was evident in the round of applause that followed his answers while he walked down the aisle. Still, for me, Balta proved his own integrity when, after an outstanding performance, he squeezed me in a huge hug, a hug which condensed our work together.
It would have been great for Balta to win this contest. The result, however, casts no shadow on his effort, commitment, eagerness and enthusiasm. Why not? Because he stood up to what he believed throughout the two months we were working together. Congrats, Balta, for keeping up to your your integrity and thanks for letting me be part of it.
Below is a full version of Balta’s speech.
“Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I’d like to start this speech by owning up to a thought I had when I first read the topic of this competition: “Integrity has no need of rules”. I initially wondered what on earth could be so important as to do away with rules. Rules that are key to life in society, since rules such as laws tell us what to do and not to do, in order to live peacefully. I realized then that there must be something to integrity which puts it beyond the limits of rules. So after doing some research I harboured a definition of my own: “A person HAS integrity when they act according to their values, beliefs and principles.” This means, for instance, that objects such as the chairs you are sitting on right now cannot possibly have integrity, for the simple fact that they are not people. Integrity is a characteristic inherent to us, human beings, that is why it has no need of rules, because it is ABOVE rules. Let me illustrate this point with an example or two.
Let’ go first to History. We are all familiar with a point in time when the rules that we all enjoy nowadays were exclusive to a certain social group. I am referring to the segregation experienced by thousand of African-americans based on racial grounds. Non-white people were excluded from facilities and services, as well as life opportunities such as housing, medical care, education and transportation. This division was founded upon a belief in white superiority, a division which was of a legal nature. This means that racial segregation was at a point in History legal. And that also means that any attempt against discrimination implied fighting against a legal system, against the rules on which that system stood. And how is this connected to integrity? Well, there was one person willing to fight against the legal system for the sake of his own integrity: Martin Luther King. He stated, and I quote: “Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.” Precisely, Martin Luther King perceived that those rules, in general, and legal rules, in particular, acted to the detriment of human existence. And not only did he clearly see this incongruity but he also put his money where his mouth was. Living up to his principles, he defied the law by creating the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King shared in a very famous speech, I quote: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” His actions led to a movement in accordance with the values of freedom and justice and in order to do so he had to go against the rules. He understood that integrity had no need of rules because it was beyond them.
Integrity, however, is not privative to History. It is brought into the game of our everyday life and personal experience. For instance, while preparing this speech I came across a conundrum of personal integrity. When I was first offered to participate in this contest, my main concern was that I would not be able to stand up to previous speakers: some were loquacious, some were histrionic, some others were very solid in putting arguments forward. What could I do? I pictured myself being told what to do. Teachers, my parent and friends, with their best interest at heart, would point out which rules I should follow to succeed and win this contest. Later, however, I realised that I was imposing rules upon myself, rules to be somebody else for the purpose of winning this competition. And that was my flaw: if I had blindly followed the rules I told myself on how to speak, how to move, etc, etc. I would not be myself. So here I am sticking to the rule I have stood up for throughout this contest: Integrity is above those rules, being true to yourself is above rules.
So we have shared today that the path of and towards integrity is not without conflict. Living up to our principles, fighting for them, being true to ourselves means that we may have to defy rules, to the point of claiming that integrity has no need of them. And that is for the simple reason that integrity cannot be reduced to such condition: integrity defines us as human beings and that is why it is beyond any rule. Integrity rules. Thank you very much.”
Compartimos algunas fotos de la compatencia en la embajada.