Snake speech charms judges

Zoey Duncan

With lots of enthusiasm and a healthy dose of humour, Caleb Dueck gave all of snake-kind a leg to stand on with his winning speech, “Why Snakes Deserve to be Liked,” at the 2011 Rainy River District Speech Contest last Thursday night.
“Well, I didn’t think I would win,” admitted an excited Dueck.
The Grade 6 student from Donald Young School in Emo was inspired by his own love of snakes, combined with society’s—and his grandmother’s—dislike of the creatures.
“I’ve always liked reptiles but my mom won’t let me get one because my grandmom, she just doesn’t like snakes,” Dueck explained after claiming the trophy.
“She was almost killed by one so if I got a snake, she’d probably never visit our house again,” he noted.
The in-class speech assignment mandated that students complete the project without parental help.
But Dueck had previous experience to rely on. As part of a Grade 5/6 split class last year, he worked on a non-competitive speech with his dad, a local pastor with plenty of public speaking tips to pass on.
In his speech this year, Dueck debunked common misunderstandings about snakes.
“Most people would say, ‘You know, snakes are all wet and slimy,’ but really they’re dry and smooth,” he remarked.
“If you want to get a wet and slimy animal, get a goldfish. That’s what I say.
“Snakes will make great pets for people with hair allergies because they don’t have any,” Dueck reasoned. “They have scales and they molt, whereas cats and dogs will shed everywhere.
“With all this in mind, it’s crystal clear that snakes are way better than other animals,” he stressed.
Dueck appealed to his audience’s emotions, too, describing the life of a neglected pet shop snake: “Imagine the sadness and depression the snake would go through knowing that mice would be living in nice warm homes while, he, an amazing snake, is stuck in a cold, dark cage.”
The second-place winner was Sophie Potvin-Begin from St. Francis School here, who described the lessons of patience and determination she’s learned from pairs figure skating with the same partner for years.
Third-place winner Reece Jones of Crossroads School in Devlin spoke about his uncommon hobby: picking up bottles on the side of the highway.
All 12 students who competed in the district-wide contest already were winners who had excelled in their class speech competitions.
“There’s certainly a great deal of talent here,” said Heather Campbell, director of education for the Rainy River District School Board.
“We have strong oral language skills across the district and so it was really a wonderful event to hear to students shine and excel in such a way,” she enthused.