Cork student's award-winning speech: 'Nobody is safe, until everyone is...'

Christian Brothers College student JONATHAN WALSH, was the winner of the ActionTalks Speech Writing Competition. Here we print his award-winning speech
Cork student's award-winning speech: 'Nobody is safe, until everyone is...'

Jonathan Walsh a student from Christian Brothers College Cork, as the winner of the ActionTalks Speech Writing Competition.

TODAY I’m going to talk to you about the regression of humanity into a tribal mind-set over the last two years, which has prolonged the Covid-19 pandemic, and could do much worse in the future.

We all know the story of Covid: the first small outbreak, the two-week break from school and work, which turned into months, and the sudden evolution into a global emergency.

In wealthy countries, people battened down the hatches and waited, supported through online working, social security payments and public health guidelines. However, in lower-income countries this was simply not an option. Breadwinners with no financial support had to work, putting billions of people with no other choice in the virus’ line of fire, and causing hundreds of thousands of deaths.

The economic destruction of the pandemic pushed millions under the poverty line and sewed chaos among the world’s most vulnerable. When aid for these people was needed the most, it disappeared, as wealthy countries cautiously saved money, fearing the worst.

After a long year enduring this nightmare, a glimmer of hope emerged: The vaccine. However, it quickly became obvious that there was more to this lifeline than met the eye. 

Limited supplies were snapped up by the same wealthy countries, buying enough doses to vaccinate their population multiple times over.

As vaccine campaigns rolled out across the developed world, Covid-19 showed no signs of slowing down elsewhere. Despite this, developed nations lounged on their piles of life-saving vaccinations, and watched.

Jonathan Walsh a student from Christian Brothers College Cork, was the winner of the ActionTalks Speech Writing Competition.
Jonathan Walsh a student from Christian Brothers College Cork, was the winner of the ActionTalks Speech Writing Competition.

The consequences of this greed made themselves known when the Delta variant plunged India into an apocalyptic crisis and began to spread around the globe, causing a surge in illness even among the vaccinated.

The rise of other villainous variants such as Omicron has served as further proof of the obvious that world leaders still have not realised: Covid-19 is an international problem, which can only be solved with international solutions.

By denying vaccines to huge swathes of the world’s population, it is only a matter of time before one random mutation bypasses all progress we have made. 

Nobody is safe, until everyone is. Not only are billions suffering unnecessarily because of this ignorant gluttony, wealthier countries themselves are not even benefiting from it, inviting the virus to go back to the drawing board before launching another assault. If we want the pandemic to end anytime soon, we will have to accept the non-negotiable condition of international aid and sharing of vaccines with developing countries.

And we shouldn’t stop there. Improved international relations will allow us to vanquish this virus, but will also be invaluable in solving the titanic problems currently facing mankind. For example, without trust between countries, no nation will postpone economic growth while sustainable energy is advanced, in fear that others will get ahead. This would doom life on Earth as we know it.

A future where each country has access to weapons of extreme power is fast approaching, with nuclear weapons and emerging technologies. 

Whether the superpowers of today like it or not, as the world becomes more connected than ever, we will have to mature past our current infancy, and begin to think of humanity as one community, not as divided groups and survival of the fittest.

Governments will not be able to ignore this necessity for much longer, and the best place to start is right here and now. The developed world must see the bigger picture and give a helping hand to the billions worldwide who are struggling, not only with vaccinations in this pandemic, but with development and growth in general. You and I, as individuals, can make this happen. Use your vote to elect open-minded and forward-looking politicians who will serve not only their own country, but all of mankind. Consider donating to charities such as COVAX or the UNICEF Vaccine Fund.

Spread awareness and make yourself heard about this issue affecting not only those in poverty, but humanity and our existence.

Thank you.

MORE ABOUT THE COMPETITION

ActionTalks is a national speech writing competition run by ActionAid, open to all students aged 14 to 17 year olds.

Jonathan will receive a €500 One4all Voucher, and his teacher, Edward Newman, will receive a €100 One4All voucher.

After being chosen from over 130 entrants, and then winning the regional finals, six students delivered their speeches in historic Woodquay Dublin to a panel of expert judges. It was the first in person final of the competition since 2019.

Students competing on the day included Anna McSweeney and Jonathan Walsh from Munster, Elle Walsh Giguere and Caoimhe Spain from Leinster, and Aine Gilhooly and Hannah McNally who won the Connacht/Ulster heat of the competition.

Judges on the day were: CEO of AkiDwA, which is a national network of migrant women living in Ireland, Dr Salome Mbugua; former MEP and Lord Mayor of Dublin and current Policy & Advocacy Manager with the Irish Development Education Association Emer Costello; Assistant General Secretary with the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland and Board Member with ActionAid Ireland Moira Leydon; and Programme Coordinator with ActionAid Ireland Erick Onduru from Kenya.

The competition, now in its eighth year, aims to engage young people with global issues, including gender equality and sustainable development, and challenging them to use their voice to create positive change. This year the competition focused on vaccine inequity globally, unpaid care work and violence against women.

For more on Action Aid see https://actionaid.ie

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