West Roxbury, Mass.-- For the last 20 years, CM’s Speech and Debate Team has ushered in spring with a festive day of performance and celebration known as the Afternoon of Exceptional Oratory (AEO).
Held on March 8th, this year’s AEO celebrated a first.
At the day’s opening performance, seniors Darius and Marcus Gadsden performed Clean Cut, a piece that the brothers have performed to great success at local and national competitions throughout the year.
A CM duo finding success is nothing new, but their performance piece is. Michael McCarthy ’19, an alumnus of the team, authored the work. According to Br. Anthony Cavet, the team’s coach, this is the first time that team members have competed with a piece written by a CM student.
Marcus and Darius’s rendition of Clean Cut dazzled the audience as it has done for judges and earned a thunderous applause from the hundreds of family, friends, alumni, and faculty in attendance.
"The Brothers Gadsden can make a reasonable claim to being the GOAT of Catholic Memorial duos. But they won't make the claim because they are too kind and generous to their colleagues, past and present," said Br. Cavet.
The Gadsdens were not the only shining performance of the AEO. More than 50 students in middle and high school showcased the hours of work they have put in to perfect their delivery, tone, movement, and expressions. Their performances ranged from drama to humor and earnest to light-hearted in categories including declamation, group debate, programmed oral interpretation, and children’s literature.
For the CM community, teachers and students had the opportunity to see award-winning performances like that delivered by James Julian and Will Cummings live for the first time. Typically, the Speech and Debate Team is performing at tournaments off away from CM’s campus and hosted by colleges like Harvard or St. Joseph or high schools like Lexington High School and Natick High School.
In addition to the performances, the AEO also includes a special and poignant moment – the bestowing the Christopher Donlon ’12 Award. The team established the award in memory of Christopher, who passed away unexpectedly during his junior year at CM.
Each year, the team honors one or two team members who embody Chris’s persistence, hard work, and optimism and his commitment and dedication to the team. This year, freshmen Aaron Crowley and Michael Schwerdt received the Donlon Award as co-recipients.
“I'm truly honored to have received this award, and to have been recognized for having the enthusiasm and dedication to the team as Chris did," said recipient Aaron Crowley.
Senior and former Donlon recipient Reid Gutz presented the award to Aaron and Michael along with Chris’s parents.
“Michael and Aaron were awarded the Donlon Award for best embodying the kind and dedicated spirit of Chris, serving as constant sources of joy for the rest of their teammates. Whether it’s working on their individual performances or blocking their multiple together, their commitment and desire for improvement are inspiring to us all,” said Reid.
A national powerhouse in speech and debate, the CM Speech and Debate Team travels to some of the most prestigious tournaments throughout the country including the Yale Invitational and the Tournament of Champions. The AEO is a day for the team to share their work with the community by performing for faculty, students, alumni, and friends. The event also raises funds to support the program and defray the cost of travel for team members.
The day has also become an important day on the school’s calendar to celebrate the work and achievement of one of the school’s most accomplished programs.
"This year's AEO may have been the greatest artistic success in all 20 years of its existence," said Br. Cavet.