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Massey leads World Speech Day celebrations in NZ

World Speech Day participants Hana Te Puni from Plamerston North Girls' High; Dr Katherine Holt; Ms Leah Baterbonia; and Mr Mike Fiszer.

On March 15 New Zealanders joined speakers from over 30 countries to celebrate World Speech Day by giving short speeches on their thoughts for a better world. The speeches were streamed from Massey University to Rings TV, joining voices from Kyrgyzstan to Syria. This was the first year New Zealand participated.

Speakers were asked to choose their topics by finishing the sentence: “The world would be a better place if …”. 

The morning began with senior lecturer in Rehabilitation Dr Gretchen Good giving a speech on the importance of listening to those who do not speak. Good talked about children with disabilities and she invited audience members to listen with the ears of their heart. 

The second speaker was Paul Stock, a senior tutor in Plant Biology. Mr Stock urged listeners to plant more trees because the earth needs them to survive. 

Next, postgraduate student Hina Cheema spoke on becoming a better person herself. Ms Cheema quoted the poet Rumi: “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

Guest speaker Hana Te Puni from Palmerston North Girls' High followed with a passionate call to re-establish our connection with the earth and be its guardian. Ms Te Puni was the 2015 winner of the Junior English section of the prestigious Ngā Manu Korero regional speech contest and second equal in the national competition.  

Event organiser Dr Heather Kavan and Ms Manvir Edwards.

From true leadership to the need for more smiles

Event organiser and senior lecturer in Speech Writing Dr Heather Kavan opened the afternoon session with a speech encouraging listeners to differentiate between false charisma based on image control and genuine charismatic leadership that empowered people. 

Postgraduate student Leah Baterbonia spoke next, urging listeners to uphold women’s rights and to listen to their voices in fighting corruption and poverty and in bringing resilience and peace to the world.  

Senior lecturer in Finance Dr Janine Scott followed with a speech inviting listeners to step outside of their middle and upper class bubbles and to engage with people and projects at community, national and global levels.  

Next, senior lecturer in Earth Sciences Dr Katherine Holt spoke, encouraging listeners to smile more often. Dr Holt outlined research on the benefits of smiling, including the release of feel-good chemicals and increased attractiveness.    

Dr Gina Salapata, senior lecturer in Classical Studies, followed with a call for people to explore ideas and concepts from the Classical world. Salapata suggested that experiences from these times could shed light on current day challenges, such as the trauma of war veterans. 

Mathematics specialist Gus Hubbard spoke next, sharing his ideas on the importance of making mathematics interesting for children. He suggested ideas for tangible problem-solving related to real-life questions.  

Planning analyst Manvir Edwards was the penultimate on-campus speaker. Edwards spoke on the value of holding family dear in our hearts. She noted that “family” means more than blood relatives and includes people who love and respect us.  

The final on-campus speaker was Mike Fiszer, Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor of Executive Education and Enterprise. Fiszer gave a speech on the importance of focusing on growing the number of well-lived lives in well-led workplaces.

The black Labrador that won the day

Two additional speeches were filmed in Wellington. Dr Cat Pausé, senior lecturer in Human Development, spoke on treating fat people better. Dr Pausé discussed the false assumptions we make about others based on their body size, and she encouraged listeners to embrace diversity.  

Launch Lab manager Simon Wolyncewicz also gave a presentation. Mr Wolyncewicz spoke about the benefits of having more poetry in the world, and he suggested that poetry could be a gateway to using the full potential of the brain.

Dr Heather Kavan said the New Zealand speeches had received positive feedback. 

The personal highlight for her was the special appearance of a black Labrador at the start of the day. The Labrador, called Caz, arrived with Dr Gretchen Good and is her children’s assistance dog.

“Caz got right into the spirit of World Speech Day. Naturally, several of us were anxious at the start, but then Caz came in, and every cell in her little body seemed to radiate good feelings,” Kavan said. 

The speeches by World Speech Day participants can be viewed here.

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