C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest

Female student standing at a podium giving a speech

About the contest:

The annual C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest, established in 1974 by the directors of the C. Henry Smith Trust offers students an opportunity to discuss peacebuilding and social justice issues on campus. The intercollegiate competition is administered by the Peace and Justice Ministries of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Undergraduate students from every Mennonite and Brethren in Christ college in North America including Canada are eligible to participate. 
Henry Smith was an American Mennonite historian and professor at Mennonite colleges and the University of Chicago. Overall, he taught history for nearly 50 years at the collegiate level.  He is well-known for his numerous books on Mennonite history and his particular attention to the peace commitments of the Mennonite tradition. The contest is sponsored by Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) Bible, religion and theology, language and literature, and peacebuilding and development programs including Mennonite Central Committee. 
The theme for these speeches is the application of the Christian peace position to contemporary concerns. These might include diverse lens on different forms of violence and peace, feminism and gender equity, racial equity, restorative justice, socio-economic and political inclusion, police brutality, non-violent direct action, peace as everybody's business, climate change and environmental justice, etc. 
While there is a $1,050 cash award that will be administered to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd winnersparticipation is less about the monetary prize, but more about creating awareness on PACS and social justice issues a student care about and incorporating Christian lenses to it.

For questions, please contact Ndagire Brendah, the PACS Academic Advisor.

See videos of the past winners below.

Visit the PACS Events page to learn more about this year's contest.


All residents or associates of Conrad Grebel University College, as well as students who are enrolled in a PACS program, are invited to participate in the contest.

Contest regulations

  1. Speeches should follow the general theme of the application of the Christian peace position to contemporary concerns. Sample topics might include pacifism, economic peacemaking, religious conflict and reconciliation, women’s issues as peace issues, biotechnology, and Christian ethics, how to work against racism from a faith perspective, environmental concern through the eyes of the peacemaker, etc. (Topics are not limited to these suggestions.)
  2. Speeches should not be longer than 1500 words. Not more than 10% may be quoted material.
  3. Speeches should not be longer than 12 minutes in duration.
  4. Speeches will be judged on six criteria: topic, content, delivery, introduction, conclusion, and creativity.
  5. On the day of the contest, a copy of each speech must be submitted to the judges after it has been delivered.
  6. The 1st place speech will be sent to the bi-national contest to compete with speeches written by students from across North America. The top three orations at the binational level will also receive an additional cash award.

Previous winners

2020 Contest Winner, Catherine Bergs

"Passivity Was Never A Virtue"

More Previous Winners:

2011 Winner, Stephanie Chandler - Pacifists Waging War: The War on Homosexuality

2010 Winner, John Wray - Seeing the Human in the Human

2009 Winner, Sara Brubacher Planting Olive Trees: Giving a Voice to the Voiceless

2008 Winner, Leah Reesor - Giving and Receiving: Exploring the Spirituality of Service

2007 Winner, John Wray - Banana Workers and Involving Anger in the Christian Peace Position

2006 Winner, Tobin Reimer - Solidarity with Today's Poor

2005 Winner, Sarah Loewen - Forgiveness: An Act of Peace