The Catholic University of America

Feb. 3, 2009

Three CUA Students Take Prizes in Annual Hartke Declamation Contest

First-place winner Anna Brungardt and contest sponsor Jack Knight

Three Catholic University students won cash prizes by giving artful recitations of speeches by presidents including George W. Bush and Barack Obama during the Feb. 2 Fourth Annual Hartke Declamation Contest at Callan Theatre.

The first-place winner, Anna Brungardt, a senior drama major from Overland Park, Kan., won $1,000 for her declamations of then-Senator Barack Obama's May 18, 2008, speech on race in America, and President John F. Kennedy's civil rights address of June 11, 1963.

Second-place winner Joe St. George, a sophomore politics major from Boardman, Ohio, won $300 for his performances of President George W. Bush's First Inaugural Address and President Lyndon Baines Johnson's "Great Society" speech of May 22, 1964.

Third-place winner Felicia Charles, a freshman history major from Denver, won $200 for her performance of President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and Sen. Barack Obama's Jan. 8, 2008, "Yes, We Can" speech delivered after the New Hampshire primary election.

Two other students also gave presentations for the contest, which was open to all CUA students and held in memory of Rev. Gilbert V. Hartke, O.P., who founded CUA's Department of Drama in 1937. The annual competition is the brainchild of professional actor and CUA alumnus Jack Knight, class of 1964, who donated the prize money. Knight won a similar declamation award while he was a student and says it helped inspire him to take up a career as a television, film and stage actor.

Judges and winners, from left: lecturer Melissa Flaim, actress Helen Hedman, Felicia Charles, Joe St. George, Anna Brungardt and Associate Dean Glen Johnson

The contestants were judged on elements of diction, elocution, presence and presentation. The contest judges included actress Melissa Flaim, a lecturer in voice and speech in CUA's drama department; Glen Johnson, associate dean of undergraduate programs; and critically acclaimed Washington, D.C., actress Helen Hedman, who earned her bachelor's degree in drama from CUA in 1973.

Immediately after the winners were announced, Knight entertained the audience with anecdotes about his acting career and his CUA studies, as well as an exhortation to follow Lincoln's example and aim for high goals, giving oneself permission to seek to be everything one could possibly be.


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