Students Voice Passions in JUD Talks

Aidan Conant ’20 was in a Stations of the Cross service when he experienced a deep, life-changing realization: “My sins killed Jesus.” In that moment of spiritual significance, he saw the light—but it was coming from screens. “No one cared,” Conant says. “People were . . . checking their emails and playing games.”

From the negative influence of cell phones to the origin of the universe, last week’s 2019 JUD Talks provided a platform for six students to exercise their public speaking skills by presenting a speech on a topic that inspires their passion.

With Sam Florez ’19 and Arwen Struthers ’21 as hosts, the JUD Talks featured three guest judges: Jeffrey D. Arthurs, interim pastor at Cross Bridge and professor of preaching and communication at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; Noelle Guerin ’02, senior vice president at Cercone Brown & Company; and Maggie Risma ’17, account services at MullenLowe. The audience also had a chance to weigh in with the People’s Choice award, which went to Robert Mech ’19.

Though each contestant was praised for being well spoken, the top scores went to Conant, Amaury Bryan Gutierrez ’22 and Wislene Augustin ’19, who won cash prizes of $300, $200 and $100, respectively.

2019 marked the second year of this TED Talk-style speech competition, created by Communication Arts Department Chair Christine Gardner in honor of College founder Adoniram Judson (hence the “Jud”) Gordon, a widely praised preacher and orator.

“JUD Talks are all about harnessing the power of speech to inspire and motivate the Gordon College community,” Gardner says. “The wide range of topics the students selected reflect their interests and passions and demonstrate what the Christian liberal arts are all about.”

1st place: Aidan Conant ’20, “The Cellular Effect”

In his JUD Talk, Conant spoke about the influence of phones on our lives: “Before these phones start to conquer us, we need to learn how to conquer them,” he said.

Conant says his motivation to participate was not to win a prize, but to encourage his peers to look away from technology, and instead look toward God’s creation. “I just wanted to get a message out there,” he says, “and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”

  2nd place: Amaury Bryan Gutierrez ’22, “Why?”

For Gutierrez, the “essence of living is learning.” To convey his passion for knowledge and questioning, Gutierrez discussed the importance of one word: Why?

“It’s a small word,” he explained, “yet it is the most important question you will ever ask. The question contributes to a cycle of curiosity and wonder.”

3rd place: Wislene Augustin ’19, “Him and Hymns”

“What is the song you will leave behind?” Augustin asked the crowd. “Each one of you will discover your own song, and each will be unique to who you are. When we play them together, we create a beautiful symphony.”

Augustin combined her passion for public speaking with her love for music to explain music’s impact on the world. She shared her own spoken word and described the legacy people leave through poem and song.

People’s Choice: Robert Mech ’19, “The Improvisational Mindset”

In a 12-minute speech, Mech managed to pack in the topics of acting, physics, jazz and different laws of science—all to convey the importance of improvisation.

“Improvisation improves your thinking,” he said. “It makes you more positive, which allows you to be more creative, which translates to a greater readiness for what’s to come in life.”

By Ellian Chalfant ’22, communication arts