The night before Barack Obama delivered his speech in front of the Victory Pillar, in a covert location in Pankow suggestively referred to as ‘24’, ISU 2008 students came together to practice their oratorical talents and reward the best among them. Professors and students of the ISU gathered – outside the classroom this time – to listen to some of their most courageous and creative give philosophical or satirical dissertations on the big questions.
The voluntary participants were asked to hold 4-5 minute speeches in front of their demanding peers and, of course, a jury composed of the ISU faculty. Depending on their field of choice, students were given a statement and had only ten minutes to prepare speeches on their respective statements. The task was demanding, but the hours spent on Marx, Nietzsche, or Dostoyevsky seemed to have inspired passionate rhetoric on politics, economics, religion, and art.
“Democracy is dead” – a statement that left the audience pondering – was fiercely debated by Anna Michalkova (Slovakia), Vasil Vulkov (Bulgaria), Rilind Latifi (Kosovo) and Mila Sanina (Kazakhstan). The statement for the economics section – ‘Greed is good’ – would have certainly scandalized Marx or Engels, but ISU students Sascha Azarhoush (Germany), Dinara Ismailova (Kyrgyzstan) and Tuvshinzaya Gantulga (Mongolia) told different stories. The echoes of a plaintive “Oh my God, why have you abandoned me?” were taken up by Lior Fadlun (Israel) and Anastasiya Prymovych (Ukraine) in a real display of theatrical talents. Last but most definitely not least, given the importance of arts at ECLA, Yevgeniya Ovsiyenko (Ukraine) and Iulia Mihai (Romania) tried to demonstrate or disprove that “art corrupts”.
The competition was close and certainly productive, giving birth to lofty inquiries and insightful, entertaining statements. The audience was intellectually challenged with questions that were complex in their simplicity: “What is democracy?” (Anna), “Has democracy in fact ever been born?” (Mila) or “Who reads Marx today except ISU students?” (Tuvshinzaya).
After the speeches, the winners were announced and pompously rewarded with champagne – sending the students once more to good old Dostoyevsky for some references. Anna, Sascha, Lior and Iulia were the proclaimed winners, but of course, congratulations extend to all the other brave and creative speakers.
The event also served as a beautiful way of officially thanking Prof. Melinda Harvey for her inspiring lectures and seminars at the ISU 2008. Melinda will be returning to Australia where her semester is starting and we would like to thank her for her commitment and dedication. Once the festivities had ended, arduous discussions and friendly chats filled the room; from ongoing chess games to cultural exchange, no subject was left untouched.