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My Soapbox Experience

Daire Lawler with his mum and aunt
Daire Lawler, student of Luttrellstown Community College in Dublin 15, shares his experience of taking part in a Soapbox competition and winning a prize!

A soapbox competition gives speakers the opportunity to speak for an agreed amount of time about a subject that is relevant to the world around us. Given 2013’s nomination as “European Year of the Citizens”, Europe Direct chose to base their annual soapbox on the opinion that “Citizens are at the heart of the EU”. This topic is both engaging and fitting given the political tumult that is evident in Ireland today, making for an intriguing blend of opinions amongst the widely diverse political viewpoints of the public.

As for myself, I am currently completing 5th Year as a student of Luttrellstown Community College in Dublin 15. I first began my soapbox experience in 2012 when I came across the competition through the Social Justice module of my Transition Year programme. I finished in third position in the regional competition held in Blanchardstown Library in Dublin 15, all while gaining a unique learning experience in developing oratory skills and persuasive techniques.

The following year I received an email about the upcoming soapbox event with an invitation to participate and jumped on the opportunity without hesitation or delay. In line with my opinions on the topic, I focused on the sentiment that even through difficult times both socially and economically in our continent, our citizens have a unique and innate ability to withstand, persevere and procreate. This was the core belief that I aimed to channel in the writing of my three-minute speech.

After delivering my speech on 25 September in the Blanchardstown Library and experiencing a nerve-racking wait (somewhat alleviated by a Danish pastry or two), I was this time awarded first position in the Under 18 category, and MEP Paul Murphy presented me with the wonderful prize of an iPad, generously donated by the European Commission. This was undoubtedly a time of celebration and pride for me and my family, but it didn’t mark the end of my soapbox experience.

On 19 November 2013, I represented Dublin in the National Soapbox Finals held in the Printworks in Dublin Castle, once again organised by the hard-working Europe Direct centres all around the country. Although being awarded with an iPad was a huge honour for me, I relished the opportunity to represent the young people of my county and present my views to an audience originating from all corners of Ireland. After delivering a successful speech, which was well received, I rediscovered the sense of adrenalin and pride I felt on that same occasion in Blanchardstown Library. I also reflected on how the soapbox event itself justified my beliefs in the enduring power of the undying sense of purpose which citizens of Europe collectively possess.

However, throughout my whole soapbox experience I have cherished one particular fact: that my opinions were recognised and listened to, and that--more importantly--they made an impact. This was the most rewarding element for me as I believe it is true to say that a person has little purpose without making some form of impact on the world around them.

Since my soapbox experience, I have deepened my knowledge specifically of European affairs as well as attending a number of other Europe Direct events. I have made contacts with university lecturers, met with media and politicians and have even added a Samsung Galaxy Tablet to my collection of winnings. My concluding message is one which is both sentimental and enlightening… Who knew that iPads could be so useful for writing news articles?

Published: Thu, 20/03/2014 - 17:55

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