Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 9, No. 9. July, 24, 1946
Judges On Trial—
Judges On Trial—
Dear Sir.—I was disappointed with Plunket Medal placings. It seemed the judges were either biased by ideological outlook, or unable to distinguish a moving oration from a well-groomed and fluent recitation. The disappointment probably is accounted for by a combination of these factors.
In all activities some necessarily perform more attractively than others. Some are more gifted with that shade of subtlety and finesse which just makes the difference between talent and skill. As the Very Rev. Father Blake said: "You either haw it or you have not." Either you have a niceness of voice and range of emphasis or you lack them—either possess the power of using emotion to create emotion or don't possess it—are able to fire an audience with the conviction that you believe what you are Baying—that you are in urgent sympathy with something—that you understand someone's aspirations sacrifices and sufferings and possess the sensitivity to respond—you can either do these things or you can't. The difference is the difference between an orator and a lecturer.
J. R. McCreary left his audience moved and convinced that his eulogy of H. E. Holland was motivated by conviction. He had not as had most or the contestants, merely ferretted through a history text for some unusual interesting or arresting fact or figure to talk about. He spoke of a man whom he admired, with whose life he was familiar and whose ideology he had espoused long before he contemplated Plunket Medal. He has casted the acid of social and legal censure as Holland tasted it; he believes in the type of society that Holland fought for—to him basic and essential human rights are as dear as they were to Harry Holland, and McCreary convinced us of this with dignity and drama.
K. B. O'Brien lacked J.R.Mc's power of conviction, lacked his stage presence, was drawn and somewhat nervous and chose less vital material. His speech was interesting and neat and he delivered it with characteristic fluency it was an informative, interesting and well-moulded lecture, which, mouthed by one with McCreary's talent for voice production, could have reached the standard of oratory. But his voice was thin; he was not concerned within himself over the injustice meted out to Alfred Dreyfus; he will have forgotten those historic details in a month's time. His speech contained little drama; his voice did not allow him to affect [unclear: ehfbtlon] without sounding strained; at best he was only intellectually convinced that a wrong had been done. Any intelligent schoolboy could have been trained to deliver that speech the structure of which was attractive and skilful, but the effect of which was intellectual, not emotional.
Judges deserve sympathy. Their's is a difficult task, and whatever conclusion they reach, someone will bellyache over it. My complaint is not so much with the judges—they no doubt did their job honestly and sincerely according to their own lights. But I do think more effort should be made to secure as Judges people who are trained in sorting talent from skill, who are sensitive to those individual subtleties which set the gifted apart from the prosaic, and who may not be unwittingly guilty of allowing their own publicly avowed ideology to perhaps sway their evaluation of the content of a speech. One is tempted to wonder whether the subject matter of Saker's, McCreary's and Collins' speeches prejudiced their chances when a Catholic scholar and a Tory M.P. formed a majority at the judges' table.
Be that as it may, on Saturday night an artist was rated second to a mechanic.
R. G. Stuckey.