William Blankenship wins Tennessee Right to Life Oratory Contest

High School Students Compete for Place at National Competition in Overland Park, KS

When someone is in a coma, they are much like an unborn child. They have a heartbeat, they have cognitive capabilities, and they have a soul. Just like an unborn child, they also cannot speak; they cannot decide for themselves what they want, what will happen to them, or what will become of their life. They are simply alive, unaware, and unprotected.” These were some of the opening words in a speech given by William Blankenship, winner of the recent Tennessee Right to Life Pro-Life Oratory Contest for high school students.

The 19th annual event was held at Aquinas College in Nashville on Saturday, April 28. Winners from 11 participating chapters across the state qualified to attend by competing against over 30 public, private, and home-schooled students in grades 9-12. Each contestant researched, wrote, and presented an original 5-7 minute pro-life speech on abortion, euthanasia, infanticide, or stem-cell research.

William, a high school senior, represented Macon County. Because he had once been in a coma, William was able to speak first hand on the frightening prospect of someone else controlling whether or not he would live. “I speak from the point of a man who has been in a coma, and who has experienced firsthand the state of being in which I heard the discussions … as to whether or not to pull the plug rather than to keep me alive by machine…..there is nothing more terrifying than not being able to say, ‘I want to live! I want life!’”

Other finalists in the state contest were William Shaw, a senior from Cheatham County, explained the right of an unborn child to have life; Ireland Duggin, a sophomore representing Rutherford County, who described the inhumanity of abortion; and Violet Thorne, a freshman representing Wilson County, relayed information regarding euthanasia and physician assisted suicide.

Later this summer, William will represent Tennessee at the National Right to Life Jane B. Thompson Oratory Contest in Overland Park, KS.

“The students who present speeches at this annual event never cease to amaze me. Anyone of our finalists would represent Tennessee well at the national competition!” exclaimed Frances Arthur, oratory contest chairman. “Their speeches were impressive and their delivery was impassioned. I hope that each of the county winners will be given opportunities to share their speeches again. These are our future leaders, and it is our responsibility to support them in their endeavors.”

Tennessee Right to Life commends all of the contestants in Saturday's contest, as well as Tennessee Right to Life chapters who organized local competitions: William Blankenship, Macon County, Ireland Duggin, Rutherford County, Natalie Eilerman, Knox County, Andrea Horst, Fentress County, Olivia Jarvis, Smith County, Jack McDonnell, Sevier County, Cole Robertson, Lawrence County, William Shaw, Cheatham County, Violet Thorne, Wilson County, Emorie Ware, Shelby County, and Nate Young, Dickson County.

Please consider how you might support this important project. Youth-oriented gifts and cash contributions are needed to fund prizes as well as traveling expenses to the national competition for Tennessee's winner.

Click below to make a tax-deductible contribution and select High School Contest as the Program Designation.

Contest chairman, Frances Arthur, with William Blankenship   TN Right to Life chapter contest winners that competed on Saturday.   Contest finalists: William Shaw, Frances Arthur (contest chairman), William Blankenship, Ireland Duggin, & Violet Thorne