By Charles J. Mays, Graduate Fellow for the University of Delaware's Center for Political Communication
Editor's Note: It was an amazing opportunity to serve as this year's Voices Matter producer. I was particularly moved by the amazing stories written by our entrants, weaving both personal and vulnerable stories, with a message of the power of one's voice. Some might think it would be concerning to have such a number of stories about feeling silenced, but rather I saw, in many of the entries, the discovery of self-confidence that led to the writers rising above their situations and making their voices heard. Thank you to all the entrants for their stories and congratulations to all of the finalists.
Listen to the top 10 Voices Matter audio essays. Listen to Delaware Public Media's segment about the top three essays.
APRIL 3, 2019―The fall 2018 Voices Matter Audio Essay Contest, hosted by the University of Delaware's Center for Political Communication, not only gave students a platform to discuss important political issues. It also gave them confidence.
The contest's theme centered around First Amendment expression and unheard voices. Essay topics ranged from navigating interpersonal relationships to feminism and anti-Semitism. Students submitted 2- to 4-minute recorded essays considering these questions: Do you feel free to express your opinion? Have you been affected by hate speech? Have you ever experienced or witnessed censorship? What does the First Amendment mean to you? How have you made your voice matter? Judging was based on content; originality and creativity; delivery; and production value. First-place, second-place, third-place, and three honorable-mention recipients received cash awards of $500 to $50. The project ran in tandem with the CPC's National Agenda speaker series, "Midterm Matters," which also took place last fall.
University of Delaware Provost Robin Morgan, who presented the awards at a public event on March 14 at Mitchell Hall, recognized the hard work of all the students who entered the contest. “It was an honor to see so many students embrace the opportunity to share their voices with regard to the First Amendment. On a college campus, in particular, it is imperative that we balance our constitutional rights with consideration of others—that we strive to assess our own perspectives by listening to the positions of those around us. The Voices Matter Essay Contest provides a platform for our students to express themselves in a way that benefits us all. It was my honor to be a part of it.”
The event was part of a conference entitled "Speech Limits in Public Life: At the Intersection of Free Speech and Hate." Dr. Jenny Lambe, an associate professor of communication at UD, organized the two-day conference to discuss how to effectively respond to hate speech on college campuses and digital platforms. The kick-off event featured the Voices Matter awards presentation and guest speaker Christian Picciolini, an award-winning television producer, a public speaker, author, peace advocate, and a former violent extremist.