Siloam Springs, Ark (November 18, 2003) - John Brown University freshman, Abby Kirkbride was so nervous that her mouth was “cotton dry,” which made her lick her lips multiple times during her speech. To calm her nerves and wet her mouth, she started to chew gum until it was almost her turn and then quickly swallowed it before she started speaking. Kirkbride participated in the National Future Farmers of America Convention public speaking event and beat 47 other competitors to win first place. The tournament was held in Louisville, Ky., Oct. 29 through Nov. 1, where approximately 45,000 FFA delegates from 50 states attended. Her speech, “A Paradise Desert: The Challenge of Water in the West,” identified issues concerning water in the western half of the United States. “Every speaker there was really talented. It was intense.” Kirkbride said. Part of the difficulty of the event was a five-minute question-and-answer portion that followed the eight-minute speech. Three or four judges could ask the speaker any question, though most questions related to the agricultural implications of the speech, public policy, and personal opinion. “It was the climax of three years of working toward this goal,” Kirkbride said. “It was incredible to compete at that level.” Kirkbride said that she’s always enjoyed public speaking, but because of the small size of her high school they had no forensic team. However, Chugwater High School’s FFA chapter in Chugwater, Wyo., offered Kirkbride public speaking opportunities. During her sophomore year she joined the chapter and began her public speaking career. In her first year of high school competition, she took second place at the state level and in her final year of competition she took first place in the state, which qualified her for the fall 2003 national competition. Kirkbride is currently is in her first year as a member of the JBU speech and debate team and will begin competing for JBU in the team’s second tournament in December. This feature article was published in the Nov. 6 Threefold Advocate, the student newspaper at John Brown University. The article was written by junior Devi Abraham. John Brown University is a private university with an enrollment of more than 1,800 students from 42 states and 45 countries. JBU is a member of Arkansas’ Independent Colleges and Universities and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.