Milton Academy student wins top prize in extemporaneous speech competition

Marshall M. Sloane II of Needham is cocaptain of the Milton Academy speech team.

Marshall M. Sloane II, a rising senior at Milton Academy, had survived 12 rounds of international extemporaneous speech competition when he faced his final question: “Would a partitioning of Iraq help to reduce turmoil in the country?”

Precisely 30 minutes later, the 17-year-old Needham resident was delivering the seven-minute speech (arguing against the proposal) to clinch first place among 242 contestants in the National Speech and Debate Association tournament from June 12 to 17 in Salt Lake City.

Sloane, who is cocaptain of the Milton Academy speech team, entered the tournament ranked No. 3 in high school extemporaneous speaking in the nation. This is his first national win in that category, although he was a middle school national champion four years ago in impromptu speaking. This past April, he earned first place for extemporaneous speaking from the Massachusetts Speech and Debate League.


“Winning nationals was a dream come true,” said Sloane, who took home two trophies: one for best speech in the final round, and one for winning the tournament.

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Sloane began participating in speech in the sixth grade, progressing from declamation to impromptu before focusing on extemporaneous speaking as an eighth grader. He credits middle school coach Debbie Simon and current coaches Susan Marianelli and Brian Anderson with encouraging and preparing him to compete at the highest level.

“I love extemporaneous because of the knowledge I’ve acquired,” he said. “People really listen to your ideas, which gives you the opportunity to shape their perspective and interest for a range of issues.”

In each round at nationals, the “extempers” selected one of three questions drawn relating to international current events, ranging from country-specific issues to regional concerns over foreign policy.

While using the Internet is not permitted, students may consult articles they’ve previously gathered from books, magazines, newspapers, and other sources. Speeches must contain an introduction and three-point analysis, each with two to three citations, and be recited from memory.


In earlier rounds, Sloane debated Russia’s foreign policy in Syria, humanitarian aid to Arab Spring countries, whether Nigeria’s economy can be revived, and how the international community can better manage disease outbreak. Because international extemporaneous contestants are “expected to talk about anything occurring around the world,” he estimates that he has saved 30,000 articles for future reference gathered from think tanks, pollsters, and 20 international newspapers.

Sloane is the son of Barry R. Sloane, CEO of Century Bank, and Dr. Candace Lapidus Sloane, chairwoman of the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine. He is the grandson of Marshall M. Sloane, founder and chairman of Century Bank and author of “Character Counts.”

“I’m really passionate about communicating complex issues to people who may not think about them on a daily basis,” he said after winning the speech competition. “It’s about involving the audience and taking an issue they may feel disconnected from and making it relatable.”

Cindy Cantrell can be reached at cindycantrell20@gmail.com.