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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Diné Ranked Fourth Best Speech,
Debate Competitor In The Nation
by Shondiin Silversmith - Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, February 28, 2013 — After winning two of the most competitive speech and debate tournaments in the nation, Navajo student Jeremiah Osborn is considered to be one of the top high school competitors in the Original Oratory category.

Osborn, a junior at Helix Charter High School in La Mesa Calif. and originally from Bloomfield, N.M., ranks No. 4 in the nation in his respective category having earned a total of 400 points so far this season.

Original Oratory is a form of public speaking where the individual delivers a seven- to 10-minute original speech on a topic of their choice.

"This is something you've written to persuade somebody to believe in something that you believe or influence somebody's life in some way," Osborn said in describing his category.

Osborn, 17, placed first at two national tournaments including the Martin Luther King Jr. Invitational Speech and Debate Tournament in Union City, Calif. in late January and at the California Invitational Speech and Debate Tournament hosted by University of California from Feb. 16 to 18.

"There are a series of tournaments nationwide and depending on the number of tournaments and points (you earn), is what determines his rank," according to Jill Sorge, Osborn's aunt.

"He's just amazing at what he does," Sorge added.

According to a press release, the MLK invitational is a highly competitive tournament with over 1,800 competitors from 91 high schools, and the California Invitational tournament is the most competitive in the Western United States.

Upon his return from the MLK invitational, a local newspaper asked Osborn about his future plans.

He is quoted as saying, "As a Native American, I hope to utilize my public speaking skills to advocate for the Navajo Nation and inspire its young people. "Currently, over 50 percent of Native Americans drop out of high school, and as many as 93 percent never graduate from college. My hope is to not only graduate from college, but to inspire other American Indians that they too can achieve their dreams."

The speech that Osborn delivered at both events was called, "Unlabeled."

"I am trying to get people to reflect on themselves and acknowledge the fact that everybody regardless of race, ethnicity, and religious belief make assumptions of people within the first seven seconds of meeting each other," Osborn said of his "Unlabeled" speech.

He said this speech allows him to point out that everyone makes their first impressions of people within the few seconds of seeing them, and from there they put them in categories.

And many people don't even realize that they are doing it, according to Osborn.

"I'm trying to open people's hearts and minds," said Osborn. "We're always going to make assumptions of people, but it's up to you whether you categorize them and put them into a group they don't belong to. Everyone is an individual in their own."

Of his reason for competing in his category, Osborn said, "I really like spreading awareness because I like being able to make a difference in the way people think and act."

Osborn said his particular division requires him to create his own material.

"It's really original, you can really get your emotions, your feelings, and your beliefs across to other people.

"I've always tried to help people and make a difference in their lives," Osborn added as one of the main reasons why he joined speech and debate. "I'm the type of person who all of my friends come to when they are having problems. I am good at giving advice."

Osborn said he thought he would place second or even third at the California Invitational and was shocked to learn that he beat his best competition by only two points.

"It feels amazing," he said. "Before this I was just an average kid, just getting by in school trying to figure out what I wanted to do.

"Being ranked fourth in the nation, being ranked anything in the nation is a really good feeling," Osborn added. "I have the potential to be the best in the nation, and their aren't many people that can say they are the best at something in the United States of America."

"It feels good to be different from people and being able to show people that no matter where you come from, you can achieve anything you want," Osborn said.

Osborn will now travel to the Fourth Annual National Individual Events Tournament of Champions in San Antonio, Texas in May.

"I am looking forward to it, not so much winning…winning would be nice but I really want to see where the others speakers are at and what topics they are doing," said Osborn. "I want to be able to see other peoples mind sets and how they look at the world." "Unlabeled"

The following are the first few paragraphs from "Unlabeled," the speech delivered by Jeremiah Osborn, one of the top high school competitors in speech and debate.

"David Ritcheson, 16. Brittany Williams, 20. Taneka Talley, 24. David Kao, 49. Lawrence, King, 14. Brian Greene, 15.

"Do you happen to know any of them? Would you be able to categorize them by likeness or shared experience?

"For me, they were nothing more than a list of random names, strangers without faces. I couldn't have told you the first thing about any of them. But, given my own personal experience with "categories," I should have been able to.

"Let me explain. Research tells us that you- and you, and you, and, yes even you- formulated your first impression of me in about 7 seconds. That's it. 7 seconds. And since you can't see 'in here' you have to base your impression on what you see 'out here.'

"And that's normal human nature. We all do it. Honestly, I see a white kid and immediately begin formulating impressions. Folks see me and wonder if I love tacos and burritos, which I do, and then sometimes go on to ask in a slow, loud voice, "Do you speak English?" which I also do. Indeed, it's my first language and yes, I was born in the United States.

"Growing up in a community with a sizable Mexican-American population, this isn't so much offensive, as it is just a reality. We place people in boxes because it?s easy, it?s safe and, frankly, we?ve been trained to do it. And in those supposed 7 seconds we use a vast array of 'qualifications' as we arrive at our snap judgments: ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, gender, disability, age, perceived sexual orientation- the list goes on, and on, and on.

"And while we may not be able to change the brain-racing conclusions we reach in those 7 seconds, we can choose what happens next. Because whether or not we want to admit it, far too often we use those impressions to degrade, devalue and ultimately, dehumanize those around us…"

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