In the Ashbrook Scholar Program at Ashland University, students are taught to speak their minds, holding discussions with their classmates and teachers as equals. It is in this learning environment that students learn the meaning of constitutional self-government, democracy, and the ever-important power of words.
In the spirit of this nurturing environment, the Ashbrook Scholar Program offers its Henry Clay Speech Competition each semester. Scholars are given the opportunity to respond to a given prompt publicly and the winners are decided by a panel of judges. This past spring the prompt was “Love is a Battlefield,” which led to vastly different responses from the participants.
The spring’s winner was junior Clayton Hrinko. Clayton spoke on the love of his father; a great, wise man with an unblemished character and a strong work ethic. The battle that Clayton shared lies in understanding how his father demonstrates his love, at times in understanding how to communicate with him. It is a battle that occurs within him to follow in his father’s footsteps; to understand that his father, who, although not very vocal about his love, shows his love through working hard and supporting his family. Clayton explains, “To be great, one must love greatly.”
In second place was sophomore Jackson Yenor. Jackson began by invoking Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield” song regarding romantic love. Through his speech, Jackson declared that love is not a battlefield, and further examines the difference between desire and intent when it comes to love and war. In the process of finding love, Jackson said, one comes upon a choice, an intent to declare war. Unfortunately, the wrong type of love can lead to a battlefield. Jackson tells the story of John Churchill. John was extremely calculating on the battlefield and had never lost a battle. Soon enough, he entered another battle when looking for a wife. Though numerous well-suited matches were placed before him who would have helped his financial situation, he nevertheless fell in love with Sarah – a poor and ill-connected woman. Though many advised against the match, he still chose her. Jackson concluded by narrating that “The man who never lost a battle lost to love.”
Junior Hayden Eighinger, the third place winner, took an analytical approach, claiming that Love and War are both cruel and complex, prompting dangerous competition. During his speech Hayden asked stimulating questions such as: Does only victory matter? Is the only goal a conquest? Is love an act of choice? Hayden explained that in love, you allow the other to conquer you. Love is the pursuit of what is true and good. To further explain his stance, he used the analogy of tennis: you win, you lose – so much back and forth that it leaves you confused. “Love is a challenge, a conquest of self to love and be loved.” With war, you win the battle and support the cause. With love, you are accepting and offering, being worthy of love and yet giving of yourself.
Previous competition winners Danielle Wright and Tara Marasco, Ashbrook Scholar Program co-director Dr. Jeff Sikkenga, and Christine Gorey, the Communications Director of the Ashbrook Center, acted as speech coaches and then sat as judges of the competition. Cash prizes of $300, $200, and $100, respectively, were given to the top three orators.