“Focus on what you can do, accept what you can’t. That’s the root of optimism.” A student delivered those inspirational words during the Cobb County School District’s annual Oratorical Contest for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing (DHH).
The contest, sponsored by the Optimist Club, gives students the opportunity to compete for a spot at the state-level Oratorical Contest where the winners receive a $2,500 scholarship. During the district-level event held at Kennesaw Mountain High School, the students’ speeches explored the theme of this year’s contest: “Where are my roots of Optimism?”
Some of the parents in the audience wiped away tears as they listened to their child talk about the roots of their optimism. Many of the students credited their family and friends for giving them the support they need to stay positive.
“I’m optimistic about my deafness because no matter what, my family and friends will love me for who I am,” one student professed.
Students also detailed other sources of optimism. One credited sports, and another found optimism in the pictures she drew to help her get through hard times. A third speaker explained that his inspiration comes from historical figures like President Franklin D. Roosevelt and musical composer Mozart, who also had to overcome physical obstacles.
Several students attributed their optimism to their experience in school.
“School has always made me stay optimistic. It is where I meet new people and make friends,” one of the speakers explained.
Another student credited his teachers for helping him overcome challenges so he can be successful in high school and make plans to attend college.
The students were not the only ones crediting the school community for their success and optimism.
Before the students spoke, Kennesaw Mountain Assistant Principal Lexie Bultman talked about the educational journey of her son, Major, and how far he has come as a member of the hard-of-hearing community.
“If it were not for the Cobb County School District and the early intervention DHH program, [my son] would not be where he is today,” Bultman said. “[Major] continues to progress. He continues to inspire, and he continues to make great strides. I cannot thank the Cobb County School District enough.”
Bultman’s perspective reflects many of the parental accounts that Dr. Bobbie Ealy that has heard as the CCSD supervisor of deaf, hard-of-hearing, vision, adapted physical education and orthopedic impairment.
“I’ve heard so many parents’ stories over the years about the importance of having someone by their side to help them through [the DHH learning process,]” Dr. Ealy said.
Bultman talked about how Cobb staff members have helped her and her son, but she also praised the Oratorical Contest for helping her son learn how to speak in front of a large group, despite being hearing-impaired. Major, who is currently in second grade at Bullard Elementary School, was one of the contestants in 2016 and 2017.
“It makes us very proud, and it is very inspiring not to just hear [Major], but to see all the kids get up there to talk about their different life experiences” added Bultman.
“[The contest] inspires me because it lets the kids have the opportunity to tell their story and come to terms with accepting their hearing loss,” Dr. Ealy explained.
Listening to the students’ speeches, it appears they have done just that.
“I’m different, and that’s okay,” one student declared.
Their speeches conveyed a theme of confidence—optimism.
One student even said she plans to inspire optimism in future generations by working with DHH students after she graduates.
“I learned that optimism is what guides people to success,” she said. “I’m showing you what optimism can actually accomplish.”
Video of the student performances and presentations at the oratorical contest is available here.