It’s All In The Presentation
A Spotlight on Ryan Kelly Murphy, ’19
Written by Katarzyna Ignatik
Hillsdale sophomore Ryan Kelly Murphy wasn’t born with a propensity for rhetoric.
“In the beginning, public speaking was definitely a challenge,” Ryan says, laughing. “But my mom reminded me that the people who are now at the top didn’t start out at the top. They had to work; they had to sharpen their skills to get there.”
Ryan began participating in debates in eighth grade. “I was stumbling over my words at age thirteen because I didn’t have any previous experience,” she says. “When I first began, I was never even qualifying. But by my sophomore year I started advancing to semifinals, and I made it to the finals in impromptu speech. I thought, I must be improving. The judges must like me. I can do this.”
A homeschooled student, Ryan participated in competitive speaking all throughout high school, gradually expanding her involvement in debate. Along with her sister, she debated on topics from the military to taxes to U.S. relations with Russia. She first qualified for the National Invitational Tournament of Champions in StoaUSA, a Christian homeschool speech and debate league, her sophomore year. She went on to triumph in apologetics speaking her junior year and won the national broadcasting title her senior year of high school.
“I was always thinking about my presentation,” Ryan says concerning her high-school growth in speaking skills. “How could I get better? How could I articulate? How could I get a certain point across in a better way? It was a challenge that was, in a sense, addicting. It’s always a new topic, always a new debate, and your audience is always changing. That’s the fun of it—you have to strategize.”
Ryan continued to participate in speech competition when she began her freshman year at Hillsdale College. She entered the campus’s Edward Everett Oratory Contest. The contest topic discussed civilized conversations on college campuses, and an important part of the debate was “safe spaces” and their violation of free speech.
“I was a little nervous, because Dr. Arnn was judging the contest,” Ryan says. “But it was an honor, a privilege.” Ryan says she was thankful to make it to the finals in the contest and was overwhelmed to place second in the competition. “There were several more seasoned speakers competing, which made it so much of an honor to compete with them,” she says.
Ryan’s experience with public speaking wasn’t restricted to debate. In her sophomore year of high school, she founded her own organization: RyanKelly SPEAKS. She made appearances at different local events, such as a meeting of a chapter of the National Federation of Republican Women, to speak about political topics. She subtitled her talks “A Millennial’s Perspective.”
“The experiences really raised the bar for me, because I was often speaking to audiences who were much older, who’d had much more experience,” she says. “It was inspiring that they took the time to listen to what a young person had to say.”
Ryan’s involvement with RyanKelly SPEAKS led to co-hosting as a guest on a radio station, which further sparked her interest in radio and broadcasting ventures. In the summer of 2016, she interned at KMIR News, an affiliation of NBC. During her internship, she shadowed reporters, practiced speaking in front of a camera, and trained in news anchoring. To incorporate her passion for broadcasting, Ryan is now involved with the Hillsdale radio station on campus.
Ryan is majoring in politics with a minor in journalism, but she says she definitely plans on using her love for speech in her career. “My career plans are a work in progress. I would love to do political commentary, where my interest in politics and my passion for public speaking intersect. I would love to incorporate broadcasting and radio hosting. I’m interested to see where my interests will take me.”
Ryan maintains that she is still honing her communication skills. “I don’t think any public speaker can ever say they’re the best,” she says. “I still have ways I can improve in my presentation, my hand gestures, my facial expressions, my tone of voice.”
And she is still motivated by this wish for improvement in herself and in those around her.
“If I win a few trophies along the way, great,” she says. “But it’s such a privilege to be a speaker. Where else in the world can you speak freely? You can’t. I can share my viewpoints and share my opinion, and I’m honored to be able to do that.”
Katarzyna Ignatik is an English major in the class of 2020. She spends her time doing homework (of course), binge-reading, binge-writing, singing, and laughing at everything and anything. Talk to her about Tolkien, the 50s, or abstract philosophical concepts, and she’ll be perfectly happy.