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A Contest For Students: Deliver A Stump Speech


If you ranked states by stump speeches per capita, New Hampshire would surely be near the top. For months, presidential candidates have been making their pitches in convention halls, living rooms and diners. Our friends at New Hampshire Public Radio wondered why the candidates should have all the fun, so they decided to hold a contest for students to write stump speeches of their own as part of the podcast Civics 101. Hannah McCarthy is one of the hosts of the podcast, and she brought a few of her favorites.

HANNAH MCCARTHY, BYLINE: Hi, Ari. How are you doing?

SHAPIRO: I'm doing great. So you listened to a lot of student stump speeches. What made the best ones stand out from the pack?

MCCARTHY: You know, it's interesting. I often am not able to repeat back to you exactly what it is that I've heard in any of the actual presidential candidates' stump speeches, but I can tell you how they made me feel. And that is the first thing that stands out from all of these students' stump speeches - was the clarity, the confidence, whether or not you heard a fist banging against a table.

SHAPIRO: Literally heard the fist on the table.

MCCARTHY: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. And it just gets you to stand up straight, sit up straight and really, you know, focus and pay attention.

SHAPIRO: Like who?

MCCARTHY: Oh, I would say probably one of our most compelling stump speeches was from Vijay Damerla from Arcadia High School in California.


VIJAY DAMERLA: I think that the main idea of my presidency could be summed up in one word - invest. My priority will be tackling the daunting enemy that is climate change because we need to invest in our future.

SHAPIRO: Beyond climate change, what other themes did students keep coming back to in their stump speeches?

MCCARTHY: So we also heard a lot about immigration from students. I mean, that's at top of mind for the nation right now, and it was just interesting to hear that young people are thinking about it quite a bit as well. And surprisingly, Ari, the wage gap between men and women came up more than we expected. One example was this wonderful speech from Tigist Murch from Brewster Academy in New Hampshire.


TIGIST MURCH: How is it fair that men get paid more money than women for doing the same job? Hi. My name's Tigist Murch, and here's why you should vote for me for president. I will personally take action.

SHAPIRO: I love that so much.

MCCARTHY: I know. It's - how is it fair?

SHAPIRO: How is it fair? Well, Hannah, how did you pick the winners from all of these great entrants?

MCCARTHY: It was very difficult to do, partially because we were just so totally overwhelmed. We received over 100 entries from mostly high school students - a few students younger than that - and all from across the country.


MCCARTHY: And finally, you know, we chose people based on how much research they'd actually put into this speech, how much actual information was there and whether or not they were offering us a solution to the problem. It's easy enough to identify what's going wrong in this country. But if you, as a young person, can also say, here's how I would fix it, we're going to pick you as a stump speech, as a potential president.

SHAPIRO: You want to tell us who the winners were? I understand you chose three.

MCCARTHY: We chose Tigist Murch, who we heard from about the wage gap between men and women, the - how is this fair? Vijay Damerla from Arcadia High School in California - he talked about climate change. There was a lot of urgency about tech. I believe he is the student from whom we heard the fist on the table. And then, of course, we chose Hailey Cheng, who also spoke about climate change. We're going to hear from her right now.


HAILEY CHENG: Climate change is a threat on the planetary scale, and it warrants a solution on the planetary scale. So as president, I would make sure big businesses are held accountable and uphold the government's ultimate responsibility - to protect their citizens.

SHAPIRO: Preach, sister.

MCCARTHY: I know. You hear that force? I mean, it's really - are you compelled? I'm compelled.

SHAPIRO: I'm compelled. Did hearing all of these stump speeches from young people all over the country make you listen to the actual candidates' stump speeches differently?

MCCARTHY: Yeah. You know, it really did because being tasked with judging a stump - you know, not just as a voter but as someone who is kind of thinking about it as an editor, listening for what works and what doesn't - gave a totally different perspective on what we're hearing every day. You know, it's hard to say something memorable in a short period of time, and it makes a voter feel like they're in better hands when you've got these specific solutions. You've got these specific examples. It's not totally dissimilar from writing a really good essay in high school. And, you know, again, delivery matters. Be memorable.

SHAPIRO: Hannah McCarthy, co-host of Civics 101, New Hampshire Public Radio's podcast refresher course on how our democracy works, thank you for sharing these students' stump speeches with us.

MCCARTHY: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Hannah McCarthy is the Couch Fellow at NHPR. She will spend a year working as a reporter in the newsroom, and as a producer on "Word of Mouth," and "Outside/In." Hannah received her M.A. in journalism from New York University, where she studied longform non-fiction writing and audio production. While in New York, Hannah worked as a reporter for Bedford + Bowery and interned at WNYC's "Death, Sex and Money" podcast.
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