Freshman George Hartmann Wins District Optimist Club Contest, Collects $2500 Scholarship


Payton Van Pelt, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

“It meant a lot for me.  To win that kind of award in that kind of competition was a dream come true for me,” said George Hartmann on winning the Optimist Club District Competition this past weekend.

As a freshman at Notre Dame, it’s almost tradition to prep and perform an Optimist Club Speech. The theme for this year was “The Roots of my Optimism,” and Hartmann found his roots in a literary hero.

“In my speech, I actually say that when writing my speech,” explained Hartmann. “I was looking for a quote to start my speech and stumbled across a great one by Dr. Seuss. I remembered how inspiring his life story was and how he always was filled with optimism.”

Hartmann is a freshman in Mrs. Brown’s Honors English. When this time of year rolled around, most of the freshman were bothered about the speech, but Hartmann was eager.

“I like public speaking, and I was thrilled to have a chance to test my skills at it.”

He teetered between ideas for a bit and started writing his speech much later than his peers. His first time delivering it to his classmates was “nerve wracking,” and he had doubts about how it went.

“I was sweating buckets and stuttered a lot in the beginning but managed to keep my cool and perform it well,” Hartmann recalled.

Obviously he did something right. He was chosen by Mrs. Brown to compete, and Hartmann was ecstatic when he heard the news.

“I had told my parents about it previously so when we found out we all went and got a big dinner to celebrate,” he said.

The competition was held in Stevens Point and going into the weekend contest, Hartmann felt a little anxious.

“I had to wake up at 5:30 in the morning to get ready and make a two-hour drive to Stevens Point, where the competition was being held, so by the time I get there I was really tired,”Hartmann explained.  “When I got there, though, the Green Bay Optimist Club representatives amped me up and helped me focus on my speech and the competition.”

Hartmann was not the only one competing. There were dozens of other zone winners that wanted to take their shot and share their stories. And he admits: he was a very intimidated.

“A lot of the speeches were extraordinary. I was at the very last of the order of speakers and got to listen to all of the amazing speakers go before me. I might have been more appreciative if  I wasn’t competing, but I was focused on my speech and missed some,” he recalled. “They were all very good speakers. None of them were there for fun; all were determined and prepared competitors.”

Although they might have all been competitive, prepared, and strong speakers, Hartmann came out on top. Yet he’s not really sure as to why.

“I think what set mine apart was I tried to put as much humor as professionally possible. It is my firm belief that humor in a speech, character or song makes it more human and relatable.”

His humor and Hartmann won a $2500 scholarship.

“What I did wasn’t because of a superhuman gift,” added Hartmann. “I’m not athletic or a genius, but I can speak. And if I know what to say and say it well, anything can happen.”