Giving a Storyteller his Audience-Aaron Bennett

I'm a storyteller - always have been, always will be. From age three, I would dream up and perform elaborate shows for family. When my sister came of age to walk and talk, we would make pretend TV shows and Broadway plays. With a guitar and keyboard, I penned nonsense ballads. In sixth grade, I started auditioning for shows at our local community theatre. And freshman year, I dove head-first into Speech.

I loved every minute of my Speech career. I focused mainly on story-heavy events - Prose, DI, and Duo - as well as the argument-heavy events like Poetry and OO. What was unique about Speech was that I got my hands over all steps of the creative process. Instead of improvising storylines in my basement, I molded full-fledged ten-minute plots from complex literature. Instead of following a director's instructions, I envisioned and blocked and scripted and cut and rehearsed again and again. Instead of blindly performing, I breathed life and meaning into my pieces, employing them to comment on subjects deeply personal.

In short, Speech gave my storytelling passion and purpose.

And it's that lesson that I carry forward most from my high school Speech career: how to effectively employ a narrative. This skill is extraordinarily applicable and highly valued in college and beyond - especially in a field like politics and government.

Since graduating high school, I've gravitated toward the political world. Going to school in DC, I've had innumerable opportunities to apply what I learned about storytelling from Speech. I've helped a number of organizations improve their brand by underpinning an authentic, engaging narrative behind the outward-facing image. This semester, I'm interning at a top political consulting firm, helping activist groups and candidates for office tell their stories in relatable and effective ways. Just last week, I managed a successful campaign for student body president and vice president on behalf two of my good friends - communicating their story in the context of common sentiments and conversations around campus.

The ability to craft a narrative - with a clear beginning, middle and end and a salient argument driving it - is a real-life skill Speech forces us to hone each and every day. Preparing our pieces, we are forced to ask ourselves: will this make sense? Is this supported by the literature? Is this something people want to hear? These questions drive the decisions we make in Speech - but also in life after as well. Because stories help us understand and make sense of the world around us, harnessing their awesome power is certainly a key for success in any sort of political, business or entertainment field.

I plan on using these building blocks of storytelling for the rest of my career. Looking forward, I hope to someday run communications on a presidential campaign and ideally manage communications in the White House. In those high-stakes roles, effective storytelling is critical - and I'm confident that what I learned in Speech will be with me along the entire journey.