Em Cunningham | Faces of Midland
Freedom of Speech
Public speaking can be a nightmare for many college students. For Em Cunningham, it’s a dream.
Em doesn’t shy away from the spotlight. The senior Arts Management/Communications major from Platte Center, Nebraska, says getting the opportunity to present opinions in front of a group of people provides energy. “The best thing about giving a speech is that for 10 minutes, I have the opportunity to express myself, in front of a classroom, and no one can interrupt me! Having someone listening to you intently is a wonderful feeling.”
Not only does Em enjoy the opportunity to give a speech, but is also very good at it. As part of Midland’s Speech & Debate team, they have earned marks during competitions that have placed among the nation’s best. Speeches range from serious topics, such as worker’s rights, to something as common as the mushroom. “I had to give a 10-minute presentation on the benefits and uses of mushrooms. I actually discovered 10 minutes wasn’t enough to talk about mushrooms. I needed more time!”
Em comes from a family that “gets after it” and said that stage fright or nerves have never been a part of the equation. They got involved in music and performing at a young age and became interested in Speech & Debate in high school. “My sister competed in speech in high school, so I already knew the coach pretty well. I wasn’t very good my first couple of years, so I went to talk to my coach because I really didn’t think it was going anywhere. He told me that the first time he saw me perform, he saw something amazing in me. Hearing those words made me feel like I could do anything if I put my mind to it.”
Having the opportunity to perform and be a part of Speech & Debate greatly influenced Em’s decision to come to Midland. Midland’s proximity to home, smaller community, and an instant rapport with professors sealed the decision. “I love the small class sizes. The best part about Midland has been the support I have received from my professors, coaches, and directors. They all know you by name, and when I’m struggling with something, I know I can go to them, and they will help me.”
Em doesn’t perform on stage anymore at Midland, saving the time and energy to focus on speeches, and also serves as the President of PRISM on campus. Graduation awaits in May, but they are unsure about the next step in a career. “I’m considering graduate school or maybe working as a speech coach. With my majors, there are so many options for me, so the future is wide open. It’s terrifying, but at the same time exciting because I will have so many options.”
As a peer coach for the Speech & Debate team, Em is working hard to help others develop a love for, and less fear of, public speaking, and hopes other students can embrace being in the spotlight. “Don’t be scared to put yourself out there. It takes a leap of faith, but if there is something that interests you, try it. When I started at Midland, I was in choir, theater, and speech, and I found where my passion was.”
Em’s passion lies in sharing stories and thoughts with classrooms of people, 10 minutes at a time. “When you give a good speech, you can change people’s minds.”
Em Cunningham is a senior Arts Management/Communications major from Platte Center, NE. To share your story or nominate a friend, email email@example.com or post using #FacesofMidland.