2018 Oratory Contest Winners


State Contest Winners
State Contest Finalists

Pictured from left: Rori Richardson, First Place, Grand Traverse Area RTL; Alayna Ackley, Second Place, Oceana County RTL; Michael Carzon, Third Place, Downriver Affiliates RTL

18 local contest winners competed at the 29th Annual High School Oratory Contest in Holt, MI on May 5, 2018.

First Place Speech: Rori Richardson, Grand Traverse Area Right to Life

Thirty-five year old David Williams worked in management at a car dealership in Cardiff, Wales. He was a happy husband, with two young sons and third on the way, and greatly enjoyed his life. Everything changed when he was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on his spine. Doctors told him that he would be completely paralyzed in two years and that he couldn’t live past the age of forty. Despite a surgery, his prospects were grim, and shortly after his third son was born, Williams considered ending his own life to spare his wife the emotional pain of watching his illness progress.

There are two radically different possible responses to situations like David Williams’. One is euthanasia; the other is palliative care. Euthanasia is the killing of a patient in order to terminate suffering. It is legal in Canada, throughout most of Europe, and in five states here in America. A terminally ill patient can request a lethal injection or an overdose of painkillers to end his or her life, and a doctor can comply with that request if a second opinion confirms that the illness is terminal and that the patient is mentally healthy. Euthanasia contributes to a throwaway culture, which discards the elderly and infirm based on their supposed quality of life without considering their right to life.

Euthanasia laws are being debated NOW with the power to degrade human dignity or uphold it. As pro-life people, we must speak the truth about euthanasia, advocate for alternative options like palliative care, and affirm that human dignity is undiminished by suffering.

Many proponents of “aid-in dying” argue that euthanasia is necessary because it offers patients an escape from unendurable pain. However, a study performed by JAMA found that physical suffering is not the primary motivation for people requesting euthanasia. Rather, the most common reason for euthanasia is the fear of burdening one’s family, being left alone, and losing dignity. When you look closely at American culture, it is easy to see where these fears originate. Our society places great importance on personal independence. We Americans have enshrined the image of the “self made man” as an individual who pulls himself up by his bootstraps, goes out into the world, and achieves success on his own. We define “success” but the amount of money a person has or the enjoyment they get out of a job, family, and daily activities. Therefore, people are afraid of losing the things that make them feel successful and valuable. They fear being a burden, being abandoned, and losing dignity.

Euthanasia is not the solution to these fears; rather, euthanasia causes these fears by promoting a throwaway culture. A culture which routinely kills the sick, depressed, and the elderly makes it clear that human life is considered qualitatively valuable. But human dignity does not come from an individual’s independence, nor does it come from personal accomplishments, nor the status of one’s health. Independence, success, and health are qualitative characteristics that can all be possessed in varying degrees, but human dignity is an unchanging gift that everyone has in equal measure. We are all made in the image of likeness of God, created to receive the love of God and share it with others. This great dignity is not diminished by suffering. In fact, suffering can deepen love and set a good example for others if it is endured with graciousness and courage.

When people receive sudden bad news, they are often overwhelmed by fear and depression, just like David Williams was. It is dreadfully easy for a terminal patient to get lost in his/her own worries about the future; this is why there must be a culture of love to affirm the patient’s worth despite their physical and emotional pain.

The impact of such a loving culture is clearly shown by the rest of David Williams’ story. Still depressed, he was admitted to hospice. There he met a doctor specialized in end-of life care, who helped put his cancer in remission and convinced him that as long as there was life, there was hope. Williams returned to his family, in a wheelchair but still able to enjoy the blessings in his life. A few years later, Williams’ wife developed liver cancer and died very abruptly. As he and his sons grieved, Williams thanked God for the gift of life and the chance to father his children. He realized that if he had given up on life during his own struggle with cancer a few years prior, his sons would have now been orphans. He said “I used to look at the baby in the cot and think ‘I can’t do this.’ I look at him now, and I can see me in him: and I just thank God I didn’t do it. I am more than grateful that I am here for [the children] now.” Williams is currently fifty-one years old and travels throughout Wales advocating alternatives to euthanasia.

Palliative care, also known as hospice, is one such alternative. When recovery from an illness is not possible, palliative care is an end-of-life option that upholds human dignity and seeks to ease physical pain. Medical needs are met by trained nurses and caregivers. This allows the family time to provide emotional support, seek reconciliation in family relationships, and honor the wishes of their loved on regarding their finances and their estate. My dear friend and neighbor Gwen spent the last year of her life with her son by her side cherishing family memories and receiving love from her many friends. I know that she died at peace despite her physical suffering from cancer. I saw it in her face. She smiled and cried as we sang her into eternity with all the love we should share.

When faced with a culture that deeply misunderstands human dignity, we have the privilege and responsibility of being joyful pro-life witnesses. We can carry out this mission by praying for the sick and the elderly, visiting nursing homes, being patient with elderly relatives, and affirming human dignity whenever unjust laws threaten it.

When advocates of “death with dignity” claim that euthanasia is compassion, and that death is the best comfort we can offer someone in pain, we need to show real compassion. The word “compassion” comes from two Latin roots: “com”, which means with, and “pati”, which means to suffer. We demonstrate compassion not by killing a person in pain, but by entering into their pain and being willing to suffer with them. This is the prayer of presence to which we are called.

2018 Winning Speech

Rori Richardson
, Grand Traverse Area Right to Life, 1st Place

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