Goshen College junior Jakyra Green, an English and education major from Elkhart, won the 2023 C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest on Feb. 21 with her speech titled “The Privilege of Peace.”
Green spoke about the privilege surrounding peace and the reality of being Black in America. “Peace is complex, peace is hard, but an endurable peace created from the lens of social justice will always matter,” she said.
Green shared anecdotes of when she experienced racism and the absence of peace, as well as referenced examples of the systemic racism faced by Black Americans, from increased police violence, higher infant mortality rates and longer prison sentences.
“Many white people who are not impacted by systemic racism assume peace is universal, wanting racism fixed by ignoring race or being kind to everyone,” she said. “Ignoring racism is an illusion and carries a fantasy or utopian element that is beyond reality.”
With this win, Green will be entered into the binational intercollegiate Mennonite Central Committee C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest.
Taking second place was Caleb Shenk, a junior accounting major from Goshen, with his speech titled “Protesting Taxation as a Peace-Seeking Accountant,” which focused on his thoughts about taxes that go towards military spending.
Other speakers included Daniel Eash-Scott, a junior history major from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin; Mike Murrell, a junior communication major from Kettering, Ohio and Augusta Nafziger, a senior writing and music major from Weyers Cave, Virginia.
Eash-Scott spoke on “Peace Behind the Plate: Power and Humility as an Umpire,” using his experience as an umpire to explore power and humility.
Murrell spoke on “The Pacifist Warrior,” explaining how his experience in the U.S. Army turned him into a pacifist.
Nafziger spoke on “No Longer on the Same Page: How the Decline of Local News is Damaging our Democracy,” noting the dangers that come with the decline of local journalism.
The judges for the event were Gilberto Perez, Jr., vice president for student life at Goshen College; Elizabeth Miller ’06, director of the Institute for the Study of Global Anabaptism and assistant professor of history at Goshen College; and Malinda Berry ’96, associate professor of theology and ethics; history, theology, and ethics department chair at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Indiana. Anna Groff, assistant professor of communication, directed the event.
The C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest is a U.S./Canada Mennonite Central Committee-sponsored event. Participants compete for cash prizes provided by the trust of C. Henry Smith, a Mennonite historian and professor at Goshen and Bluffton (Ohio) colleges. The purpose of the contest is to give students the opportunity to become involved with the cause for peace and develop rhetorical skills.