AKRON, Pa. – Lauren Treiber, a junior at Goshen (Ind.) College, has won first prize in Mennonite Central Committee’s 2012 C. Henry Smith Oratorical Contest. Her speech was titled, “The Real Occupy Movement: Understanding Capitalism in a Christian Context.”
The annual event, open to students in Mennonite and Brethren in Christ universities and colleges in Canada and the U.S., is administered by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) U.S. The top three speakers receive scholarships to attend a peace-related conference or seminar as well as cash prizes, with $300 awarded for first place.
In her speech, Treiber, who is from Grand Rapids, Mich., empathized with those affected by economic inequities that have led to the “Occupy Wall Street” (Occupy) movement. The Occupy movement, which began in September 2011, struggles for improvement in measurable terms in the lives of the 99 percent of the global population who are not part of the world’s wealthiest 1 percent.
Treiber suggested that both the 1 percent and the 99 percent miss what is foundational for social betterment. She contended that both operate out of a sense of entitlement to what we want materially, to be delivered to us by capitalism of one form or another. She also noted that she saw more judgment of the 1 percent by the 99 percent than the love that she would like to see.
Treiber argued that the church has a different message to speak and live out.
“If we share what we have, if we treat others’ needs as our spiritual obligation, if our treasures are relationships and not things, if we love the poor, the sick and the hurting and lost: we will make brothers and sisters out of strangers, we will share Good news for all people, we will transform the face of this culture and build [God’s kingdom] on earth,” she said.
The 2012 second-place winner in the contest was Katie Wineland, Gibsonburg, Ohio, a senior at Bluffton (Ohio) University. Her speech was titled, “Speaking a Wor(l)d of Truth: Proclamation as Peacebuilding.” Wineland received a $225 cash prize.
The third-place winner, whose cash prize was $150, was Rose Byler, Goshen, Ind. Byler, a 2012 alumna of Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Va., was a senior when she gave her speech, titled, “Living in the Tension: Social Services and Systemic Change.”
Directors of the C. Henry Smith Trust established the contest in 1974 in honor of the late C. Henry Smith, a Mennonite historian and professor at Goshen College and Bluffton College (now University). Participating colleges host a contest with student speeches on the general theme of applying the Christian peace position to contemporary concerns. These individual campus contests usually take place during the spring semester of the academic year.
The judges for the 2012 contest were Calenthia Dowdy, professor of youth ministries, Eastern University, St. Davids, Pa.; Leo Hartshorn, interim pastor, Zion Mennonite Church, Hubbard, Ore.; and Carol Penner, pastor, First Mennonite Church, Vineland, Ont. The judges evaluated speeches from students at five participating colleges.
Treiber’s speech and more information on MCC’s peace education work, including resources for youth and young adults on conscientious objection and alternatives to military enlistment, can be found at mcc.org/usprogramservices/peaceeducation.
– By Ed Nyce, public education coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee U.S.