Student:

Emily Burke, an eighth-grader at J.R. Fugett Middle School in the West Chester Area School District.

Achievement:

The 14-year-old from Exton won the ninth annual Gettysburg Address Contest, held by the Borough of West Chester Historical and Architectural Review Board. Burke bested out seven other area middle-schoolers and earned a cash prize of $300 for her memorized rendition, in costume as Abraham Lincoln, of the famous speech.

The contest was held at West Chester's Lincoln Building, and Burke and her peers performed the speech from the second-floor balcony to crowd, gathered below on Market Street. It was a clean sweep by the Fugett students, as Tess Marchant and Amber McNeila took second and third, respectively. Marchant won $200 for her second-place finish, and an additional $100 for having the best costume. McNeila won $100 for third place.

Question:

How did you hear about this competition, and what drew you to it?

Answer:

Our history teacher [Douglas McGillivray] told us about it. I've always really been into public speaking, and acting and drama, so I decided to give it a try.

Q:

Have you ever done anything like this before?

A:

My fabulous English teacher [Briana Latta] has been having us practice public speaking and debates, so we had some experience there, me and the other kids from Fugett.

Q:

What kind of topics do you debate?

A:

I did one on the usage of video games in younger children, if it's really bad for the brain. I was against it. I thought it slowed down education, that it was a setback.

Q:

Did you do anything in particular to bring anything special to your rendition of the Gettysburg Address?

A:

I thought it was 99 percent emotion and how you felt about the speech and how you understood it. I tried extremely hard to understand well what it was about, and bring everything to it I could, and also use hand motions. I used my hand motions especially at the climactic parts of the speech.

Q:

How did you dress up like Honest Abe?

A:

A few other girls were Mary Todd [Lincoln], but I couldn't find a costume. Mine was actually a last-second costume. I just grabbed a top hat and I drew a beard on with eyeliner.

Q:

You just had a top hat lying around your house?

A:

Yeah.

Q:

What's your favorite television show?

A:

Everybody Loves Raymond

. It's hilarious and I can watch it with my family.

Q:

Any other draws on your time besides school and impersonating presidents?

A:

Horseback riding. I'm at the barn all the time; it's my favorite thing to do. I also play the trombone and the piano.

Q:

So what are you going to do with the $300?

A:

I'd like to save. Horseback riding is an expensive sport.

- Will Hobson