Election speeches needed to showcase leadership abilities

May 24, 2017 — by Elicia Ye and Katherine Zhou

During election season, our Facebook feeds were flooded with promotional profile pictures and campaigning for ASB or class office elections. Quickly scrolling through, the captions all read the same few trite lines, and the only candidates that stood out were the ones with the highest resolution photos.

In contrast to what happens at SHS, look at the election process at Lynbrook, which features recorded versions of live candidate speeches, later put up on YouTube. This method is a far better way to get a sense for candidates’ goals, ideas and personalities.

Since we lack these kinds of speeches, our elections inevitably become popularity contests, as students simply vote for the candidate that they know best on a personal level. In order to avoid elections being based on popularity, the best alternative is to have candidates give live speeches — perhaps streaming into classrooms.

Cherry-picking the ASB speeches of people we know or have heard of from Lynbrook, we noticed that although almost all of them read from a prewritten script, they incorporated jokes, emotions and movement to interact with the audience, who in turn greeted them with cheers and applause.

Additionally, Lynbrook’s election system employs an official website where the plan and picture of each candidate, along with links to their own webpage or event, are posted and available to all students.

In contrast, with promotional ads being the main method of campaigning at Saratoga High, picture quality and the number of likes and comments on each post become the only basis of judgment.

While the current ASB and Class Office elections featured campaign videos, the candidates’ are not commonly known since the majority of students who vote do not watch every candidate’s video.

Without live speeches, students are forced to rely on their preconceived notions of candidates and advertisements on Facebook and other social media. This inevitably transforms student elections into a contest of likes and comments instead of ideas and real content.

Not to mention, it’s hard for underclassmen to distinguish among candidates that they barely know.

Furthermore, when there are optional short video speeches, the speeches in the videos are edited down and are more entertaining than informative in order to capture voters’ attention. Usually these short clips are posted to Facebook, and are at most 30 seconds to a minute.

Speeches given in front of a live audience, on the other hand, help determine the abilities of the candidates to lead and communicate effectively under pressure. However, some people still believe that public speaking is not the most vital part of leadership.

Although some people are unaccustomed to or terrified of public speaking, holding a leadership position requires candidates to be able to address the student body openly. Overcoming the fear to stand up in front of a crowd of over a thousand students requires the initiative and courage that a leader needs to have.

Principal Paul Robinson believes that it is difficult to change the results of elections, and different methods often don’t have noticeable results. However, he said the administration is open to change, if the students want it.

“There’s plusses on both sides,” Robinson said. “If giving student speeches is something that our student body thinks is important, then we should do it. I’m not sure if giving a speech is going to make a huge difference, but it certainly could be something that could be tried and seen.”

Although it may not make a difference in the overall outcome of the elections, having student speeches would at least give students the opportunity to be more informed about their candidates. Without speeches, there is simply no way to differentiate among candidates unless the students  know them personally. Our school should consider the benefits of taking the small amount of time needed to allow students to campaign through speeches.