Longtime Oratorical Contest Revives the Best of Public Speaking
The 2019 Langfan Family Undergraduate Constitutional Oratory Competition was held on Sunday, April 7, 2019, in the Moot Court Room at the Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School. Established in 2001 and hosted this year by Yeshiva University’s Office of Undergraduate Academic Advisement, the annual competition recognizes student excellence in public speaking and rhetoric in an oratorical competition in which competitors present a short uninterrupted speech analyzing a controversial constitutional issue. Judging the competition were Devora W. Allon, a litigation partner at Kirkland & Ellis; Dr. Doug Burgess, associate professor of history at Yeshiva College; and Isaac Gelbfish ’13YC, ’15BR, a clerk in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
The topic for this year’s event was “Does the refusal to provide goods and services on religious grounds violate the customer’s constitutional right to freedom of religion?” Each of the ten contestants delivered a five-minute argument to a three-judge panel. Contestants’ speeches were judged on clarity of argument, the quality of supporting research and evidence and overall delivery.
At the conclusion of the presentations, the judges offered detailed critiques to help contestants hone their rhetorical and analytical skills. Capturing first place were Rachel Rosenberg ’20S and Nolan Edmonson ’19YC; Shayna Doretsky ’20S placed second; Ashira Pollack ’21S ranked third, and Daniel Weinreich ’20YC was an honorable mention.
First-time participant and first-place winner Rachel Rosenberg, who interns for a judicial referee in New York City Family Court, was surprised by the outcome. “I wasn’t expecting to win, but I’m certainly thrilled.” Yeshiva student union president Nolan Edmonson, who also won first place in 2018, stressed the overall importance of the event. “The Langfan Competition gives students exposure to constitutional matters that they may otherwise be wholly unaware of. Constitutional literacy is essential to producing educated and involved Americans. I truly believe the Langfan competition excels at enabling contestants to become more literate about our founding document. It’s a fantastic opportunity to hone one’s public speaking ability. I hope more undergraduates will take advantage of it.”