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Bethel announces winners in peace speech contest

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Four Bethel College students presented speeches April 26 in the annual C. Henry Smith Peace Oration competition, sponsored by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) with support at Bethel from the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR).

Jon Huber, junior from South Hutchinson, placed first, with a prize of $250, for “Moving from Conversation to Dialogue.”

“I spoke about how most peace-minded folks are known for what they won’t do, and how we should move toward being known as doers of peace,” Huber said.

In his speech, he stated: “It is time we become known as a peace-minded denomination of ‘do-ers’ and not of ‘won’t-ers.’ … When we are in opposition to something, how can we speak and act prophetically, like Jesus, but … without condemnation [of] the opposing side?”

Huber argued that being doers of peace means engaging in thoughtful dialogue at every step. “Dialogue is better than conversation. It is deeper. It resonates more soundly.”

Second place, and a prize of $175, went to Naomi Graber, sophomore from Elkhart, Ind., for “Unity: Living in Peace.”

“I attempted to honestly and genuinely address the conflict over sexual identity questions within the Mennonite church,” Graber said. “There is pain and alienation on both sides of the issue, and we should not attempt to determine a clear right and wrong when this breaks relationships. Instead, we should live and work together in love and unity to build relationships amid difference.”

Taylor McCabe-Juhnke, sophomore from North Newton, took third place with a prize of $75 for “Indivisible Forces: Conserving and Peacemaking.”

Students from all the Mennonite colleges in North America are eligible to compete in the C. Henry Smith Peace Oration competition. They do so first on their own campuses. Huber and the other first-place finishers then sent a DVD and video of their winning speech to MCC’s main office, where a panel of judges selects the overall winner. Bethel’s winner in 2005 and 2008 went on to take first place overall.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2009 and one of only two Kansas colleges profiled in Colleges of Distinction 2009-10. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at

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