SOUTH COUNTY — The California Lions Club 82nd Annual Student Speaker Contest has named Timothy Mercuri of King City High School as the regional champion of this year’s competition featuring the topic, “Freedom of the Press.”
This year’s contest was hosted by the Gonzales Lion’s Club on March 23 at Fowler Hall in Gonzales. Among the judges were Monterey County Supervisor Chris Lopez, Gonzales resident and columnist George Worthy and former Gonzales City Clerk Susan Warner.
“The Lions of California put on this contest every year to promote public speaking for our students,” said Jeanine Healy, region chairwoman. “They’re all high school students who’ve worked very hard. This is a run-off competition.”
Mercuri and Gilroy student Darice Wong had already won twice in the speaking competitions, once at the club level and zone level. The Speaker Contest was regional and is part of a series of six competitions, with the final being a state competition.
Wong is a student at Gilroy Early College Academy and decided to compete in the Lions competition because she wanted to push herself out of her comfort zone.
“I’m just really glad to have taken a chance and pushed myself to come do this,” Wong said.
Wong’s speech spoke about press exhibiting integrity and when they aren’t, it can be harmful. She said the press has an impact on people.
“The problem isn’t whether or not we allow our press to make mistakes or to have fowl intentions,” Wong said. “If we want to preserve unimpeded expression, it’s inevitable going to have those problems, but I think the issue is how we react to the press when it does make those mistakes and how can we keep trying to hold our press and media accountable.”
Mercuri, a senior at King City High School, will move on to compete at the district level next and spoke about freedom of the press. He chose to compete because he has always thought that public speaking would be fun.
“Later in life I want to move into law as a trial attorney and be a prosecutor for the state and move to politics,” Mercuri said. “So I know that being well-spoken, being able to conduct myself in front of a crowd is not only necessary, but it is everything.”
When Mercuri was delivering his speech, he said he could adapt to the room and change his speech to make specific parts more powerful. He said the strongest part was closer to the ending.
“I outline the citizen’s responsibility because I know a lot of people who will say it’s ‘fake news,’ the media’s corrupt or broken,” he said. “You ask them what have they looked up. What articles have you read recently? And they said I haven’t done anything. I don’t want to get involved in that swamp.”
Mercuri said that would make sense if readers thought the media was lying to them and cited the Covington boys and having all sides of the story released that weren’t.
“I feel like a lot of the time we forget our responsibility,” Mercuri said. “Freedom of the press is freedom for the press, but it’s also our freedom and just as much as they need to handle their business, we have to handle our business as well and our end of the dog.”
In Mercuri’s speech, he talked about the public’s right to seek out more than one media source and to develop their own opinion or views on what is happening or happened.