Three years ago, when he and his mother arrived in Baltimore, Giovanni Ramirez-Cruz did not speak a word of English. On Friday, he received a trophy at his school, the Mother Seton Academy in Fells Point, for giving the best speech among the eighth-grade boys there – and he had plenty of competition for the top honor.
There was Avery Burrell, for instance, who gave an impassioned performance as a middle-school weightlifter determined to achieve greatness without the use of steroids. The theme of the eighth-grade speeches, a spring tradition at the school, was “The power of one word,” and Avery’s word was “strength.”
He portrayed a young man tempted to take a performance-enhancing drug, and he mentioned famous athletes – Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens – who’ve been accused of doing that. Ultimately, the boy Avery portrayed decides not to take the pill. Real strength, Avery said, means you are a person of character. “Real strength comes from within,” he said, and the students, parents and staff in the cramped third-floor assembly room broke into excited applause for Avery’s admirable declarations.