For the second consecutive year, Cleburne High School junior Gracie Walker will be representing Cleburne Rotary Club at Saturday’s Four-Way Test Speech Contest Finals taking place in Weatherford.
Sponsorship of the speech contest for CHS sophomores, juniors and seniors is a longtime project of Cleburne Rotary. The competition is based on Rotary’s statement of ethics, recited by members at the conclusion of every meeting: “Is it the Truth? Is it Fair to all concerned? Will it build Goodwill and Better Friendships? Will it be Beneficial to all concerned?”
The five-minute speech presented by contestants can involve any topic, but must be specifically subject to the Four-Way Test, using it as a point of referral throughout the body of their presentation.
“Cleburne Rotary Club has been involved with the speech contest for over 30 years,” member and contest coordinator Gary Little said. “As of recent years, two CHS students have performed deep into the finals. The speech program supports and allows the students to learn about Rotary while extending themselves beyond the classroom atmosphere.”
As a sophomore, Walker went on to win at the Regional level, finishing second overall in the Dallas/Fort Worth finals. Her speech skills earned her $1,800 in Rotary awards, which ultimately went into college savings. She admits to experiencing some personal pressure this year as a returning competitor.
“I have really enjoyed doing this,” she said. “Mrs. (Ashley) Fowler, who is a great teacher and mentor, asked me to be among the contestants again this year. I felt no pressure last year presenting at the Rotary Club meeting. This time was different--because of doing so well last time.”
“The speeches presented at this year’s contest were amazing,” Walker said. “We got to have a trial run at school and got some critiques. That really helped.”
Walker’s speech focuses on work ethic and the downfalls of being satisfied with mediocrity. She also talks about choosing to deal with obstacles rather than making excuses.
“You can complain that it’s not fair, or you can choose to shatter the glass ceiling,” Walker said, backing her remarks with quotes by Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs and Ronald Reagan. She also shares personal experiences as a member of the wait staff at a local restaurant.
“We constantly have each other’s backs,” she said. “Our hustle motivates every one of us as we strive to meet the needs of our customers. It takes everyone clicking together to make the machinery work.”
“I picked this topic because I realized in a lot of people, including some I encounter, they just want to get their 9 to 5 in and be done,” said the 17-year-old. “If they make manager someday, that’s great. I think it’s important to strive to do your best. You should commit your work to use in bettering yourself and your circumstances, whether it’s a getting a more dependable car, buying a house or getting an education. Personally, I like to dream big, although sometimes I can be too optimistic.”
Little said Walker’s speeches, backed by her presentation skills, continue to make her a winner in the Four-Way Test competition.
“Gracie is very genuine and believable in her presentation,” he said. “She also connects well to the audience in her story line—she speaks from the heart. We are wishing her well at Saturday’s contest.”
One of Walker’s big dreams relates to a career following college. With one year of high school to complete, she is considering pharmaceutical sales while looking at Tarleton State University as the next step in her education.
“I want a job where I can be at home with my kids—a job which will allow me to pick and choose so I can spend time with family,” she said. “I know life can get in the way of those things.”
Walker’s speech regarding work ethic and the trap of mediocrity is not just talk, as evidenced by her many commitments and reputation as a student leader. In addition to her part-time job, she is a very involved Yellow Jacket, serving on Student Council, the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Committee, Exchangettes, National Honor Society and Beta Club. She is vice-president of the Cleburne Rotary-sponsored Interact Club.
She is also ready for Saturday’s Regional finals.
“I feel good,” she said. “I felt a lot of joy in winning the Cleburne contest again. I’ve got my speech memorized. I just keep going through it—and giving my speech in front of the mirror and in the shower.”
Cleburne High School junior Gracie Walker is the winner in the Cleburne Rotary Club Four-Way Test Speech Contest for the second year. She will be representing Cleburne at Saturday’s Rotary contest finals in Weatherford.