Plea for Mental Illness Awareness Wins Rotary 4-Way Speech Competition

A student’s chilling plea for understanding of mental illness won the Rotary Club of Cincinnati’s 4-Way Speech Contest on February 28, 2019.

            Karrington Rainey, senior at Clark Montessori High School, will next compete in the Rotary Southwest Ohio District speech competition on March 31, 2019, at Wright State University in Dayton.

            Rainey, of Elmwood, told the crowd of more than 135 business and community leaders how her sister’s schizophrenia had impacted her life and expanded her understanding of others.

“Imagine having a sister who hears voices telling her to kill you,” Rainey told the crowd of Rotary members and guests at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Hotel.

            Rainey said her understanding of and empathy for her sister grew as she learned more about the illness that affects more 46.4 million people.

“Mental Illness is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It’s an illness,” she said.  “If I had something wrong with my arm or leg, everybody would want to sign my cast. But nobody wants to sign my depression pill bottle.”

            Awareness, Rainey said, leads to greater acceptance.

 “On a scale of one to 10, my sister used to irritate me at a 15,” she said. “Now it’s about a nine. I realized everything that irritated me about her was her illness.”

Rainey’s speech drew a standing ovation. She was one of four high school speakers in the competition that challenges students to incorporate the Rotary’s “Four-Way Test” into a speech. The Four Way Test is an ethics standard, challenging Rotary members to assure everything they think, say or do is the truth, is fair to all concerned, build’s goodwill and better friendships, and is beneficial to all concerned.

 Other contestants included: Rikki Joiner of Springfield Township, a junior at Walnut Hills High School, who talked about social media, youth and politics; Kennedy Liggins of Monfort Heights, a junior at the School for Creative & Performing Arts, who talked about the dangers of an increasingly stressful environment; and Liam O’Shaughnessy of Wyoming, a freshman at Wyoming High School, who made a convincing argument for learning multiple languages to unite people and expand understanding.

All four speakers will receive cash prizes and a letter of recognition from the Rotary Club of Cincinnati. The district competition in March is the final level in the speech competition. The district winner will give his or her winning speech at the Rotary Southwest Ohio District Conference, hosted in Cincinnati April by the Rotary Club of Cincinnati.

The annual Four-Way Test speech competition is a collaboration between Rotary and local schools, said Laure Quinlivan, co-chair of the competition for the Rotary Club of Cincinnati.

Rotary members began visiting the four schools in fall of 2018 to work with faculty advisors and encourage students to compete. Rotary members led coaching sessions with students and the Rotarians and faculty judged in-school competitions to choose the four who competed on Feb. 28.

“Rotarians love helping students develop the skill that will serve them their whole life – public speaking,” said “Quinlivan of Mt. Lookout. “It’s revealing to learn what teens really care about these days and their speeches make us laugh and cry,” she said. Her co-chair was Ed Mathis of White Oak.

Judges for the contest were Cincinnati Public Schools board members Ozie Davis of Avondale and Melanie Bates of East Walnut Hills, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati’s Producing Director D. Lynn Meyers of Westside and President of Cincinnati Toastmasters Polly Giblin of Mason.