“Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without.”

Videos of Past Speeches

What is the format of the competition?

Based on written speeches submitted in February (In 2013: Feb. 8th), finalists are selected to deliver their speeches at a public evening event in the Sanctuary at First Church. Contestants specify one of two categories, Spirituality & Faith or Social Justice & Activism for which they wish to be considered. There are usually three finalists in each category. Each finalist is put in a contact with a coach who will help the finalist polish his or her presentation prior to the final event. A panel of experts selects a winner in each category. The contest is usually held in March or April (In 2013: April 14) and will be scheduled with the Williams College calendar in mind.

The Coffin prize is co-sponsored by First Church and the Chaplains’ Office at Williams College.

Who was William Sloane Coffin?

The Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Jr. (1924-2006), a pastor in the United Church of Christ and one of this nation’s greatest preachers, served as Chaplain at Williams College in 1957-58, near the beginning of five distinguished decades in the ministry. As University Chaplain at Yale from 1958 to 1975 and as Senior Minister of the Riverside Church in New York City from 1977 to 1987, he was a courageous advocate for civil rights, an outspoken opponent of the Viet Nam War, a passionate critic of militarism in general and nuclear weaponry in particular, and a champion of religious inclusivity and social justice.

What is the purpose of the prize?

First Church has a long tradition of debate and reflection on matters of social policy and social justice.  Williams College has produced many passionate speakers on diverse topics.  This is an opportunity for Williams students to grow as public speakers by preparing and delivering (with some coaching) an inspiring and passionate public speech to a friendly and appreciative audience. And it is a chance for the wider community to hear what it is that today’s students are passionate about.

Who can enter?

Any Williams College student is invited to apply.

How do I enter?

For information about how to apply for this competition just follow this link to the Chaplains’ Office:
Chaplains’ Office

By the way, what’s the actual prize?

The winning speaker in each category will receive a cash award of $400.

What if I have questions?

Email Lynn Chick mchick@williams.edu or contact the Chaplains’ Office.

Occasionally past participants have been invited to speak from the pulpit at Sunday services, either reprising their contest speeches or on new topics.