By LILY TINOCO | Reporter
Rising senior at Palisades Charter High School Julia Abbott was awarded second place in the sixth annual Optimist International Oratorical World Championships on Friday, July 23.
The Optimist Oratorical Contest offers individuals under the age of 19 the opportunity to speak publicly and earn scholarship money. Abbott told the Palisadian-Post she has been competing every year since she was in eighth grade—moving through local, district and international levels each year.
“I think I hold the record for how many times somebody has returned to the district level and competed,” Abbott said with a laugh.
She said she began competing after being told about the contest by her eighth-grade English teacher and developed a passion for public speaking ever since.
“I had never given a speech before in my life but I thought it would be fun, I liked the topic a lot, and I’ve always considered myself very optimistic …so I showed up … got up and I gave my speech, and I’ll never forget, I wasn’t even a little nervous,” Abbott said. “It was just the best feeling ever to get up in front of people and talk, I didn’t have any nerves or any jitters. I just wanted to go up and do it again.”
This year’s theme was “Healing the World with Optimism,” and Abbott admitted she found the topic a bit challenging.
“I think it’s a very wide topic but at the same time, it’s very crucial to what’s going on in the world right now,” she said. “I knew I had to take these wide ranges of experiences that people were feeling and condense them in a speech, but at the same time, I wanted it to be personal to me, and I think that’s what got me so far.”
Abbott said she spoke about her late grandmother.
“My grandma was a true optimist, I kept her in mind while I was writing my speech,” she said. “I talked a lot about her and how she always said … two quotes that I always think about: Onwards and upwards, and happiness is a choice.”
The international contest is typically held in St. Louis, Missouri, but this year’s event was conducted virtually due to COVID-19. Abbott said she wasn’t aware that she had even placed in the world championships because her internet was cut at the time of the awards ceremony.
“I was with my friend and my sister … and we heard first place, and we kind of heard second and third but didn’t hear my name,” Abbott said. “I spent the whole rest of the day feeling so sad, feeling bad. Hours later, Miss Susie [DeWeese] called and said, ‘Julia, why didn’t you call and tell me the news? … You got second in the world championships.’
“I was so shocked, I was running around my room screaming. It was really, really exciting.”
Although sad that she couldn’t make it to St. Louis, Abbott said she was still grateful for the experience.
“I had been wanting to go to St. Louis for so many years, it’s been my goal and the one year I win, I can’t go,” Abbott said. “But I think if I had to go to St. Louis, I don’t think I would have been able to do it with my family around me. I don’t think I would have been able to talk to my mom and dad and my sister while the awards were coming out, and have my sister and best friend looking up the results.
“This made it almost more special because I was spending it with the people I love and nobody else.”
Abbott was awarded over $15,000 in scholarships.
“In my dream world, I would buy a husky,” Abbott said with another laugh. “But it is a tuition-only scholarship, so I do have to use it toward college.”
As she enters her senior year, Abbott said she would love to either follow her father’s footsteps and attend Yale, Harvard University or stay local and attend UCLA.
Abbott is the second Palisadian to make it to the Optimist Oratorical World Championships, after Daniel Gottesman who placed years ago. He is now studying at Harvard.
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