EMU Student Wins Oratorical Contest

Sharon Kniss Sharon Kniss
Photo by Jim Bishop

Sharon E. Kniss, a third-year Eastern Mennonite Student student from Harrisonburg, has won the C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest held Mar. 18 on campus.

Ms. Kniss took first place in the annual competition with her address, "Engaging the Terrorists: A Discourse on Living with the Other." She received a cash award.

Runners-up were Elisa J. Wolf, a sophomore from Lititz, Pa., and Zachary T. Kurtz, a senior from Keyser, W.Va.

In her presentation, Kniss asked what needs to happen to purposely engage "the other" – to begin to communicate with those of differing persuasions and viewpoints, noting that applying handy labels like "conservative" or "liberal" aren’t helpful in that process.

She used Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 to support her points, arguing that "how we learn to live with each other forms the basis of peacebuilding in society."

A video and copy of Kniss’ presentation will be sent to Mennonite Central Committee, Akron, Pa., to be judged as part of a national competition among the winners of all participating Mennonite and Brethren-In-Christ colleges and universities.

Kniss, a justice, peace and conflict studies major from Harrisonburg, is the daughter of Phil and Irene Kniss and a member of Park View Mennonite Church.

The Smith Oratorical Contest began in 1974 as a way to honor the late C. Henry Smith, Mennonite historian and professor at Goshen College in Indiana and Bluffton Unversity in Ohio. Smith had a deep interest in the Mennonite peace position. The contest encourages college students to present speeches that apply the Anabaptist peace position to contemporary concerns.