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17Jun
2007
My Son's Winning Speech

My 12 year old son has been taking public speaking classes all year. This is a school program offered to students in 7th grade. Throughout the year students prepare speeches on a variety of topics of their choosing, and present them in front of their class. They are given pointers and assistance on speaking clearly, pacing and timing, making eye contact with listeners, hand gestures and body language, and more. And at the end of the year, those who are brave enough to do so can take part in a competition, a speech competition, in front of a much larger audience, with tougher rules, and an outside panel of judges (individuals with varied public speaking experiences). My son took part in the competition, and won second place (with a single point difference between him and the 1st place winner). We are really proud of him, it takes guts and determination to get up at a lectern in front of a full auditorium to deliver a speech, especially when you are 12 years old and the audience is mostly grownups. Here is his winning speech:

The Useless Nothing

Good evening.

I have an idea for an organization that could change the world, an organization dedicated to preventing war and safeguarding human rights. And I'd like to share this idea with you this evening.

My organization will be massive, on a very grand scale, known the world over, and with membership from countries all over the planet. The member nations would all be required to send delegates to become part of this organization. In this way, they would be representing their countries in all sorts of very important meetings and discussions.

This organization will, of course, need a huge budget, spending billions of dollars each year. The majority of the money, over five billion annually, would be used for international peacekeeping and security purposes. Member nations will be required to contribute funds to cover this enormous budget. As expected, The United States will be obligated to be the single biggest contributor. And in recognition of these contributions, we will be careful to ensure that our policies and views rarely support those of The United States.

With so much money at its disposal, the organization will have corporations the world over seeking to sign contracts with us, hoping and vying for a slice of the massive budget pie. It is very likely, then, that bribery could become the norm. Organization officials could be tempted to pocket large amounts of money hoping to direct contracts to specific vendors and companies. To prevent this from happening we will create a Budget Oversight Committee, which will be made up organization officials. Incidentally, they will be the very same officials who would be suspected of taking bribes.

We'd headquarter my organization right here in The United States, perhaps right in the heart of New York City. 16 acres of prime real estate ought to do the trick. Technically speaking, the headquarters, and the land that it sits on, will not be a part of The United States and will therefore, obviously, not be subject to U.S. rules and law. The members of the organization will not be required to respect Federal or State law, immigration law, or even customs requirements or inspections. In fact, let's let the delegates and representatives do whatever they wish, breaking any laws they see fit, and however they'd like.

As far as real work goes, my organization would create councils to solve specific world problems. Perhaps one of the most important and key committees will be the Security Council where member nations will discuss vital world security issues. All countries will be invited to be a part of this council, even known terrorist states, like Libya and Iran. The only country in the world that we will explicitly exclude will be Israel.

My organization will have no army, no real might, and no way to enforce ideas and policies. Instead, we will issue resolutions. And if by chance these resolutions are not adhered to, we will denounce the non-compliance quickly and efficiently by issuing additional resolutions!

The organization will be able to impose sanctions. Or rather, it will be able to recommend that sanctions be imposed. For example, to punish brutal dictators like Saddam Hussein we might encourage member nations to not buy oil from Iraq.

On second thought, that might not work. Sanctions like these would actually hurt everyday Iraqis more than they'd hurt Saddam Hussein. So we would have to create a special program where we actually would buy oil from Iraq, but only give them money clearly designated to buy food and medicine for the Iraqi population. Of course, monitoring such a program would be impossible, and so organization members and their families could abuse the program to their advantage, bypassing the sanctions, feeding money to Saddam Hussein, and scamming billions of dollars in what may become the biggest financial scandal of all time.

Since we will have no army, we will ask member nations to lend us soldiers to be part of Peacekeeping Forces. These elite groups will be posted in strategic locations around the world, for example, along the border between Israel and Lebanon. The Peacekeeping Forces will not use force, and will not get involved in any fighting. Rather, they will observe. And if they were to see, let's say for arguments sake, Hezbollah stockpiling weapons over a long period of time, they would not get involved, and they would not report this back to the Security Council. In fact, they will immediately do absolutely nothing at all.

The head of my organization will be known as the Secretary General. This individual will need to be a prominent statesman and a seasoned politician, someone well known and trusted, someone who could even be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. We'd find someone known for his love of all humanity, someone with a clear and untarnished past, a man of peace - someone, perhaps, like former Nazi Kurt Waldheim.

So, all that is left for me to do now is to find an appropriate name for such a significant and essential organization. After all, the world will be looking to us for impartial help and support. Let me think. ... Aha! Considering what the organization will accomplish and the role it will play in world politics and human rights, we will call it "The Useless Nothing". And the world over it will be known by its abbreviation - The UN.

Comments (24)



  • Jeremiah

    You've raised a smart young man!

    #1Posted by Jeremiah | Jun 18, 2007, 12:00 AM
  • Dale Fraser

    Congratulations,

    To both you and your son. Isn't it wonderful all the things you enjoy that your children acomplish, sometimes I think the parents enjoy them more than the children.

    I think he must have got some of your public speaking DNA.

  • Aaron Neff

    Bright son! Congratulations!

  • AndyC

    Well argued; but such cynicism in a 12 year old is sad to see

    #4Posted by AndyC | Jun 18, 2007, 06:24 AM
  • Lola LB

    Loved the speech! Congratulations to your son! No, AndyC . . . it's not sad - it's just that it takes some people longer to recognize reality, warts and all.

    #5Posted by Lola LB | Jun 18, 2007, 07:10 AM
  • Juan Marquez

    When I debated in grade school, we would often argue positions in which we didn't actually believe. I assume that's what your son was asked to do. If not, that's a disturbingly one-sided characterization of a beautiful institution.

    #6Posted by Juan Marquez | Jun 18, 2007, 09:29 AM
  • Eli

    Good speach congrads on the win.... I'm interested in the reference sources on his topic? I thought it was weird that Isreal was not in the UN...

    #7Posted by Eli | Jun 18, 2007, 09:40 AM
  • Ken Dunnington

    Brilliant! :) Congrats to your son, there's hope for our future yet!

    #8Posted by Ken Dunnington | Jun 18, 2007, 09:52 AM
  • James, F.E.

    Congratulations to your son. He has a good grasp of satire at an early age.

  • David

    Congratulations to your Son, Ben! I wonder where he gets the "public speaking" gene from??? ;-)

    The speech content itself is not my cup of tea, but still, at the age of 12 (heck, at ANY age) to stand up in front of a room full of strangers and deliver - that takes poise!

    Cheers,

    Davo

    #10Posted by David | Jun 18, 2007, 10:02 AM
  • Ben Forta

    Andy, kids today are far less sheltered and uninformed than we were at their age. They have opinions on all sorts of things, and opinions, especially those involving critical thinking, should be encouraged. He liked this subject and wanted to talk about it. We discussed various ways to present the ideas, some more formal, some harsher, some more sarcastic, ... and he liked this approach, it made sense to him. Is it cynical? Perhaps, but I think I prefer cynical and opinionated over disinterest. The real value is that they indeed have opinions and an interest in bigger issues. The opinion itself is less important, and will likely change and evolve with time. What is more important is the fact that there is an opinion, whatever that opinion may be.

    Eli, actually, this is correct. Israel has indeed requested a seat on the Security Council, but has never gotten one. The Security Council has permanent and rotating members. The current permanent members are US, UK, France, Russia, China. Each year 5 temporary members are replaced, multiple elections are allowed but they not be consecutive. So, Brazil has been a member 18 times, Colombia 12 times, Australia 8 times, Syria 6 times, Iraq 4 times, and so on. The full list is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_elected_membe.... And yes, Israel has been turned down repeatedly.

    Juan, I'm not going to get into a debate with you on the merits of the UN, but I think 'beautiful institution' may be pushing it a bit. Maybe you meant 'beautiful intentions'? ;-)

    --- Ben

    #11Posted by Ben Forta | Jun 18, 2007, 10:06 AM
  • John Farrar

    Ben,

    I wouldn't debate that your son is bright. Yet, more of what I would praise is his awareness and his courage! We live in world filled with people who don't think about the consequences of actions to others. If it feels good do it or that doesn't effect me and they just put it out of their minds. In fact though we have more news available to us about the state of the world than ever before it's sad proof of our backwards society that is revealed by the innocence of such a one as your son.

    "A wise son maketh a glad father."

  • AndyC

    Ben,
    I'd rather a bit of disinterest at 12 - although not sure whether you meant uninterest.
    I can't help visualizing the opinionated/indoctrinated gun-toting boys of that age touting jihad
    The speech might also have carried more weight before the US usurped UN procedures in Iraq with all the subsequent ramifications
    AndyC

    #13Posted by AndyC | Jun 18, 2007, 11:52 AM
  • David

    I'd have to disagree with you Andy - while pointing out that I also disagree with the content of the speech.

    I think those "gun-toting boys of that age touting jihad" would be better served if they had the ability to channel their energies into a speech makng competition, instead of death and destruction. Just my himble opinion.

    Cheers,

    Davo

    #14Posted by David | Jun 18, 2007, 12:13 PM
  • Jeremy French

    I'd have to say one of the most important benchmarks of a speech is its ability to rile people up and stir discussion (or even action?) about your subject. Judging from the responses here, I'd say you deserved the recognition you got. Well done.

  • Clint

    Fantastic!! Awesome!! Cool!!! A great spin on the way things can be interpreted when looked at in a bright light. However things may seem bad, wrong, or idiotic, it is important to remember that man and nations are young on earth like the first few seconds of a new born. Much more there is to learn and many more times will we stumble before we can walk without pain. Our existance in this time of history is indeed painful, but our job is to teach this baby how to stand. Many many generations from now, maybe even thousands, they will look back and understand what we can't. Hopefully they will be thankful we did all the hard work.

    #16Posted by Clint | Jun 18, 2007, 04:14 PM
  • Gary Funk

    Ben, you may indeed be proud.

    #17Posted by Gary Funk | Jun 18, 2007, 09:25 PM
  • Jim Robson

    Ben - congrats to you, your wife, and your son. And thank you for posting the speech - it (and the discussion that it sparked) made my day!

  • RobH (CFPanic)

    One word : WOW!

    #19Posted by RobH (CFPanic) | Jun 19, 2007, 11:06 AM
  • Mike McConnell

    Most impressive for a lad of 12, truly. I think it's refreshing to see a child interested in something other than video games and iPods. Public speaking is a skill he can leverage all his life, too.

    And, as far as the speech content goes, it would appear that your son has a better understanding of the way things work in this world than do some of your blog readers. ;)

    Best Regards...

    #20Posted by Mike McConnell | Jun 19, 2007, 05:02 PM
  • Kevin Schmidt

    Ben - that's one smart kid you've got. You should be very proud.

    And he hit the nail right on the head!

    #21Posted by Kevin Schmidt | Jun 20, 2007, 09:22 AM
  • Teddy R Payne

    Political Satire has its purpose. People will defend or agree the points made by satire.

    The purpose of political satire is to comment to the outside perspective to comment to how things appear to a general populous. Satire is commonly based upon facts that help reinforce the overall topic.

    Good political satire provokes leaders to comment to the nature of the perception and show that the population either needs to be more informed or they are more informed than you think.

    In any event, the speech made the satirical impact that was intended.

    The speech presented you with choice facts and put them in a critical light. When your initial emotional energy is spent,the speech will be there waiting for you to spin it around again in the back of your head.

    This is the power of suggestion and media. If 10 people comment, how many did not comment but read this post?

    Those who congratulated the child realized the impact of the speech and did not get overly drawn into the emotional turmoil to stay objective.

    Ben,
    Your son did a good job and I thoroughly enjoyed the Useless Nothing acronym for the UN.

    Cheers,
    Teddy

    #22Posted by Teddy R Payne | Jun 21, 2007, 09:24 AM
  • Jim

    Seems like your son has learned from the best. I think he might have a future of being a Evangelist himself :-)

    #23Posted by Jim | Jun 21, 2007, 10:47 AM
  • tony of the weeg clan

    i can almost hear him speaking this with YOUR accent... great stuff ben.