From an email by Kazim Panjwani, the 2009 organizer:
Back in 1902, a prize was established on the centennial of Philo's foundation from the generous donation of Mr. Jonathan Ackerman Coles (CC 1864, M 1868), to be given out every four years after a competition to the undergraduate having given the most worthy oration on a theme of public service.
This year, it is being held on Tuesday, May 5th, at 6:00PM in the main lounge of Wallach Hall, and you are all very much invited and welcome to bring guests. We will have seven speakers, including six Philolexians, and a panel of judges which will include the Avatar, Schmonz, and Professor Max Frankel. Refreshments will be served.
Being that this is one of few events that Philo holds that is a combination of classy and wholesome, this is a great opportunity to bring people that you would otherwise be hesitant of introducing to Philo, including but not limited to that professor you are hoping to impress.
The 2009 competition marked the first time Barnard students were eligible.
Several people have noted that a competition held every four years favors the better-developed oratorical skills of those lucky enough to be juniors or seniors at the right time. Could the competition be held more often? Apparently it's up to Columbia, who manages the prize endowment.
Adam Katz suggested that if we'd like to see more practiced oratory, a better time to hold the competition would be the beginning of the spring semester, so that entrants could prepare and memorize over the relatively calm winter break.
Through the generosity of Mr. Jonathan Ackerman Coles '64, '68M, the Society received on the event of its Centennial in 1902 a gift to establish the Washington Prize Fund. The Prize is awarded every four years after a competition (open to CC, SEAS, GS, and BC students) in which each contestant is required to deliver an original oration upon a patriotic theme. This year's topic is "Public Service in the 21st Century." The judging panel consists of the current President of the Society, an alumnus of the Society, and a member of the faculty.
The following are guidelines for the contest as well as suggestions for your speech:
Ties are required, jeans are forbidden, and jackets are recommended.
The order of the speakers will be in alphabetical order by last name.
In addition to the panel of three judges and your fellow contestants, faculty, administrators, members and alumni of the Society have all been invited to attend.
The speech should be 5-7 minutes long, please do not exceed 10 minutes. As for the topic: interpret as you wish -- you will have to effectively convince the judges any way that you take it. While content matters, this is an oration contest, and the organization and delivery is just as important. To that end, we have a few suggestions based on the judging criteria:
If you have any additional questions of concerns, please contact Kazim Panjwani at email@example.com or the Philolexian Society at firstname.lastname@example.org.