The finalists for this year’s Lincoln Academy Achorn Prize Speaking Competition were, from left: junior Anna Lupien, senior Maddy Kallin, freshman Zoe Hufnagel, sophomore Greg Demeritt, and sophomore Amelia Rice.

Lincoln Academy’s annual Achorn Prize Speaking competition took place on Friday, December 1, during the school’s weekly community meeting.

A long tradition at Lincoln Academy, the Achorn competition was established more than a century ago by Edward Achorn in memory of his mother, Mary Rundlett Achorn, to celebrate the art of great oratory. Every year LA students prepare and deliver speeches to their peers on a topic of their choice. Judges select winners based on content, organization, language, and delivery, and winners receive cash prizes.

This year’s judges were social studies teacher and debate team coach Kathleen Halm, Director of Community Engagement and Development Heather D’Ippolito, English teacher and National Honor Society advisor John Cannon, and Director of Curriculum and Instruction Kelley Duffy. The speakers were sophomore Greg Demeritt of Jefferson, freshman Zoe Hufnagel of St. George, senior Maddy Kallin of Dresden, junior Anna Lupien of Waldoboro, and sophomore Amelia Rice of South Bristol.

Greg Demeritt made a pitch to buy local, based on the economic power of small businesses. He cited the power of small businesses to keep money in the local economy, employ local people, and make donations to local organizations, saying, “local businesses not only build a community, they are the community.”

Zoe Hufnagel spoke about her grandfather’s career as a journalist, and how he inspired her to stay informed about the news in order to be a responsible citizen. She urged her peers to do the same: “to build knowledge, to expand thinking, and to be aware of the lives and events that surround us. And though one might prefer to learn about lighter subjects, news isn’t supposed to be good or happy. It’s supposed to be true. And in a world full of uncertainty, truth is the most powerful thing of all.”

Maddy Kallin spoke about storytelling, and the power of both telling and hearing stories as a way of cementing relationships and learning about the world. “Storytelling stimulates our brain,” Maddy said in her speech. “Stories appeal to our senses and emotions, captivating our attention and leaving a lasting impact on the listener. If delivered right, history shows that stories can last a lifetime–or even an eternity.”

Anna Lupien spoke about the ubiquity of photographs, and how always having a camera in our pocket in the form of a cell phone can undermine building our own memories, especially when we rely too heavily on photographs to recall past events. She advised her peers to “set the camera down sometimes, let your senses and your brain do the work and just breathe in the beauty of a joyous moment.”

Finally, Amelia Rice made a persuasive argument for letting 16-year olds vote, citing their brain development, social responsibility, and educational experience with civics and US History. “When you engage voters at this age, they will most likely become habitual voters,” Amelia said. “They will gain civic responsibility and recognize the importance of voting at a young age. This sets our nation up for success.”

After deliberating, the judges awarded first place to Amelia Rice, second place to Anna Lupien, and third place to Zoe Hufnagel.

“It was such a difficult decision, because the speeches were all of outstanding quality,” said judge Kathleen Halm. “They are always good, but this year was exceptional. Each speech was different in content and style, and that makes the judging a real challenge.”

“We had an incredible field of participants,” said Laura Phelps, Director of Library Services and Achorn Speaking Contest coordinator. “The speakers we saw at Community Meeting had already gone through a first round of judging, competing against a total of twelve other students to earn their spot in the final round. The scores were exceptionally close, both in the first and in the final round, which shows how high of a caliber all the speeches were.”

Below, from left: Anna Lupien ’25, Maddy Kallin ’24, Zoe Hufnagel ’27, and Greg Demeritt ’26