An editorial by Gary Nager

I already had planned to write this editorial about the recent Speech Contest at the Rotary Club of which I’m a member (the New Tampa Noon Rotary, which meets every Wednesday for lunch at Hunter’s Green Country Club, or HGCC), but since then, our country has survived another terrorist act of war perpetrated by two young people who were both naturalized American citizens in another major U.S. city.

As the father of two young men I’m very proud to call my sons, I felt it was even more important to commend and compliment the three young people who participated in our Club-level speech contest. The trio made every member of our club proud to have them represent us and yours truly even prouder to be one of the three judges for the event.

Little things like speech contests and other academic achievements are often overlooked, even by community news magazines, but I felt that at a time like this, when our faith in some seemingly wonderful young people has been shaken by a horrific act, it was even more important to honor these three teens — Wharton High sophomore Ali Giardezi, Freedom High senior Oriana Caffo and our winner, Wharton sophomore Kennedy McCann. All three spoke clearly and concisely on this year’s chosen subject — which, coincidentally (and a little stunningly), was already selected to be “Peace Through Rotary.”

Everyone in our club agreed that all three of these obviously very motivated, intelligent young people, all of whom sounded like the young adults they are while presenting their largely memorized speeches of 5-7 minutes, would do a great job of representing our club at the next level of the contest, known as the “Area” level. Five other clubs (including the two other New Tampa Rotary Clubs, New Tampa’s original “Breakfast” Club, which meets Friday mornings at Tampa Palms Golf & Country Club, and the New Tampa Evening Rotary, which meets every Wednesday evening at HGCC) also sent only their top finishers to the Sheraton East Hotel on Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd. in the Sabal Park area on April 23 to compete for even larger cash prizes and I also was planning to be on-hand for that contest, which was held a few days after we went to press with this issue.

Note-The prizes at the Club level were $100 for 1st, $50 for 2nd and $25 for 3rd. The “Area” level prizes are $250 for 1st, $150 for 2nd and $75 for 3rd, while the winners at the District 6890 Finals (which will be held at Rotary’s Camp Florida in Brandon on Saturday, May 11, during the District 6890 Assembly) receive $1,000 for 1st, $500 for 2nd and $250 for 3rd. But, for both club members and contest participants alike, competing for cash may be nice, but the experience we all get listening to a group of intelligent, passionate youngsters we believe will achieve all of their goals will last a lot longer and mean a lot more than the money ever could.

So, Kennedy, who plans to attend Princeton and perhaps Harvard Law and has political aspirations, moved on to the Area level, but the voting was very close and we all agreed that any of the three would’ve been hard-pressed to be beaten moving on. And again, with the events at the finish line of the Boston Marathon being linked to two brothers of 19 and 26, I felt it was even more important to honor three young people I am certain will continue to make us all proud, no matter what colleges they go to or what fields they go into after school.

Our country has survived another terrible man-made tragedy, but all we, as adults, can do is be there for our kids, give them the best opportunities we can and believe that they will always make us proud of them, and of this still-wonderful country we all call home.

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