PRIZES AWARDED IN SECOND ANNUAL ROBERT G. INGERSOLL ORATORY CONTEST
Washington, DC, November 2010 – Kevin Slaughter, of Essex, Md., won first prize in the second annual Robert G. Ingersoll Oratory Contest for his rendition of an Ingersoll lecture about blasphemy, “How the Gods Grow.”
Slaughter, competing for the second time, took top honors at the October event in Washington, D.C.’,s Dupont Circle, which was designed to bring to life the words of the 19th-century orator known as the “Great Agnostic.”
A graphic designer, publisher and sign maker who has emceed burlesque shows and hosts a podcast, Slaughter says he has been an atheist since high school and started reading Ingersoll seriously after hearing about last year’s oratory contest. “In the Venn diagram of things I’m interested in, Ingersoll finds himself at the intersection of my fascination with forgotten/intentionally neglected icons of the early 20th century, lost art forms and entertainments, godlessness and anti-theism,” he says.
Slaughter won $150; a rare original period poster including a color gravure photo of Ingersoll with his grandchildren, a quote from “Love,” and a facsimile signature; and the biography Robert G. Ingersoll: A Life, by Frank Smith.
The contest was sponsored by the Washington Area Secular Humanists (WASH), the Center for Inquiry DC, the American Humanist Association, and the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum as a way to revive interest in Ingersoll–a Civil War veteran, successful lawyer and political speaker who has been neglected by history.
The seven contestants entertained the audience with Ingersoll’s critiques of religion, defense of reason and liberty, and homages to Charles Darwin and Walt Whitman. The contest, held outdoors to draw attention of the public, attracted numerous passersby who stopped to watch, take fliers about the event, or sign up for e-mail notices.
The other winners were:
Second place: Donald Ardell, of St. Petersburg, Fla., a writer, speaker, and blogger on REAL (reason, exuberance, athleticism, and liberty) wellness. Speaking from memory, he presented selections from three Ingersoll works: “A Reply to the Rev. Henry M. Field, D.D.,” “About the Holy Bible,” and a speech at the Lotus Club’s 20th anniversary dinner. He won $100, a mounted photo of Ingersoll and his two granddaughters, and the Smith biography of Ingersoll.
Third Place: Tony Toledo , of Beverly, Mass., a professional storyteller. He presented selections from four Ingersoll works: “Reply to Rev. Drs. Thomas and Lorimer,” “The Ghosts,” “The Gods,” and “What is Religion?” He won $75 and a book, The Best of Robert Ingersoll, by Roger E. Greeley.
Fourth Place: Wendy Shore, of Ashton, Md., a triathlete and academic researcher. She read an excerpt from an Ingersoll letter, “How to Edit a Liberal Paper.” She won $50 and a book, Reason, Tolerance and Christianity: The Ingersoll Debates.
Each contestant also won one of two DVDs: about the Ingersoll museum in Dresden (see http://www.rgimuseum.org) or about D.M. Bennett, founder of Truth Seeker magazine (see http://vimeo.com/10514808 .
The prizes were awarded by a panel of three judges: Margaret Downey, founder of Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia; Tom Flynn, Executive Director of the Council for Secular Humanism and Director of the Ingersoll Birthplace Museum; and Monifa (Mo) Hamilton of Washington, a Distinguished Toastmaster and Lieutenant Governor of the world’s 10th largest Toastmasters District.
Ms. Downey helped to open the event by performing in period costume as Ingersoll’s wife, Eva, known as “a woman without superstition”. Robert and Eva Ingersoll lived in Washington, DC, on Lafayette Square from 1878-1883 and were most surely seen in Dupont Circle.
Steve Lowe, founder of the Ingersoll Oratory Contest, thanks the coordinating committee, judges, sponsors and especially the contestants for their contributions in making one of his favorite Ingersoll sayings come true: “The hands that help are better far than the lips that pray.”
In addition to Steve, the coordinating committee included Lindsay Gemberling, Beth Kingsley, Suzanne Perry, and Jeff Randall.
The other contestants were Joseph Ben-David, of New York City; Craig Howell, of Washington, D.C.; and Steven E. Jones, of Herndon, Va.
For more information about the contest, including videos of the presentations, go to http://www.ingersollcontest.wordpress.com. Write to Ingersoll@wash.com with questions or comments.
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