Sheguiandah student wins Ontario Legion public speaking competition

Alexis French, centre, of Sheguiandah First Nation won first place at the Royal Canadian Legion public speaking provincial finals in Ottwawa last weekend.

OTTAWA—Manitoulin Secondary School student Alexis French of Sheguiandah has been kept pretty busy receiving congratulatory calls from friends and family following her first place finish at the Royal Canadian Legion public speaking provincial finals in Ottawa.

“It was pretty stiff competition,” said Ms. French, recalling the field she faced down to capture the win. “The other people had some amazing speeches.”

What put her ahead? “I talked to some of the people after the speeches were judged and they told me that a song and dance always wins over the judges,” she laughed. “Since I had a song and dance at the beginning and the end of my speech, I guess that is what won over the judges.”

Ms. French’s speech was on the dangers of identity theft and the subject matter is near and dear to her heart. “I am a bit of a nerd,” she admitted. Her career sights are set on video game programming and computer science. She delights in the bits and bites of the digital domain. She has found that she is good at bridging the digital divide for people.

“People tell me ‘you can take the most complicated thing and dumb it down so that anyone can understand it’,” she said. Certainly a good skill set for the 21st century.

But just because she is a self-confessed nerd doesn’t mean she isn’t a thoroughly normal teenager. The next best part of the trip to Ottawa, after winning the competition of course? “I got to go shopping,” she laughed. “I almost didn’t get to. There was nothing around the place where we were staying.”

Luckily, her father found a mall about five minutes away from the hotel. “I bought some new clothes,” she said. Good thing too, she had a nice crisp cheque for $1,000 to go with that shiny new gold medal she needed to accessorize.

Although the competition for this year is over (not all provinces hold competitions through the Legion, so there are no nationals to go on to) Ms. French is looking forward to continuing her public speaking career as well. “I have two more years I can compete through the Legion,” she said. “I have lots of ideas for next year’s competition already running through my head.”

But she isn’t straying too far from what brought her this far, as among those new clothes from Ottawa is a brand new Big Bang Bazinga T-shirt.

Seven-year-old Patrick McCann of Gore Bay competed in the junior category at the provincials as well, finishing as a respectable runner-up.

He competed against “a whole bunch of people” at the start of the competition, but then it went down to just the three top speakers.

While in Ottawa, the McCann’s took in the Science and Technology, Titanic and a canoe museum, as well as the parliament buildings. “We also got to see the prime minister’s house,” he said. “But we couldn’t go in. There was too much construction going on at the bridge.”

Young Mr. McCann brought home the runner up prize of $75 with plenty of years ahead to perfect his delivery. He said he was looking forward to the opportunity to compete again.