C. Henry Smith Peace Oratory Contest

Through the binational C. Henry Smith Oratory Contest, Bethel College students are annually invited to research and present orations on the application of the Anabaptist/Christian peace position to contemporary concerns.

Prize monies are provided for winning orations at both the local and binational level. Local winners are entered into a binational contest comprised of winning entries from other Mennonite and Brethren in Christ colleges in the United States and Canada.

Students Sign Up Online Today

Community members are encouraged to attend the local oratory contest, either at Life Enrichment (preliminary round) or Convocation (final round).

Bi-National Winners

Recent Local Winners


  1. All students enrolled at Mennonite and Brethren in Christ colleges are eligible to enter the contest.
  2. Orations should be on the general theme of the application of the Christian peace position to contemporary concerns.
  3. Orations should not be longer than 1500 words. Not more than ten percent may be quoted material.
  4. There will be a preliminary round where each contestant will present his or her oration in Life Enrichment. This will take place mid-April. Three judges will critique and make notes on the orations. The students will then have time to edit and revise their oration for the final round in Convocation in late April. Three more judges will decide on the winner during the final round.
  5. Prize monies will be awarded to the first place ($300) and second place ($100) winners. The first place winner from Bethel will also be entered into the binational contest.
  6. The winning oration must be submitted in two forms: typed in manuscript and recorded clearly on DVD. The manuscript should include a title page which lists the student's name, the school and the title of the speech. DVDs should be labeled likewise. The student's name and school should not appear on any page of the manuscript other than the title page. The manuscripts and DVDs will be submitted to Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) U.S., Peace and Justice Ministries by May 15 of the year of the contest.
  7. Cash awards for the winning orations in the intercollegiate, binational contest will be made as follows: 1st Place: $300; 2nd Place: $225; 3rd Place: $150. Additionally, scholarships will be provided for the top three orators to attend a peace-related conference or seminar of their choice in consultation with Peace and Justice Ministries and a faculty advisor. The scholarships may be used for registration fees and/or travel costs. Maximum scholarship amounts are as follows: 1st Place: $500; 2nd and 3rd Places: $200.
  8. The text of the winning oration will be made available to Mennonite Weekly Review for publication.
  9. The directors of the C. Henry Smith Trust retain publication rights of winning orations.


The contest was initiated in 1974 by the directors of the C. Henry Smith Trust, working through the Peace Section of the Mennonite Central Committee. Smith was a Mennonite historian and professor at Goshen College and Bluffton College and had deep interest in the Mennonite peace position.

Jacob Miller

Jacob Miller, 2017 Local Winner (Bethel College)
Photo Credit: KIPCOR

Bethel College winner speech

Jacob Miller, 2017 Bethel College Winner (video)

Bi-National winner speech

Rebecca Penner, 2016 Bi-National Winner (video)

  • "This, then, is the peacemaker’s most ethical path in a world awash in despair: generating hope rooted in the uncertainties of human reality, yet faithful to the ideal of an improved (if imperfect) future. To be successful we must, as John Paul Lederach says, 'keep our feet on the ground, and our heads in the clouds.'"
    - from The Thing With Feathers, Jesse Nathan, 2005 Winner
  • "What would it mean to truly welcome the stranger? I think of the sacrifice made by the migrants who slowed down and carried someone to safety [on a stretcher made of T-shirts and metal scraps], adding the weight of an injured person to their already harrowing journey. What would it mean for our communities to do that? Where do we begin?"
    - from You Won’t Have a Name When You Ride the Big Airplane, Heidi Holiday, 2006 Winner
  • "Sure, the "other side" does things to get their point across that are harsh, accusatory, and offensive. Why can’t we? For Christians, peacemaking means judging our actions not by feelings, or retribution but against the higher standard of Christ’s commandment to FIRST love, THEN fix the problem."
    - from Prophets and Bridgebuilders, Miriam Friesen, 2007 Winner
  • "Anti-racism forces us to recognize our own racial identity. It inevitably causes pain, but it is a necessary pain for our work to move forward in creating a more just society."
    - from Peacefully Confronting the Wall of Racism, Josh Chittum, 2008 Winner
  • "Behaving as Christians based on the lesson of the Good Samaritan means recognizing how one's own privilege doesn't match up with someone else's, and then pursuing ways to level the playing field."
    - from Privileged Perspectives from the Good Samaritan, Aimee Siebert, 2009 Winner
  • "Peace activists are generally known for what they will not do. Many times people ask why pacifists don't support war. Ok, you don't like killing, but what are you doing to change it?"
    - from Leaving Complacency Behind, Jonathan Huber, 2010 Winner
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