PDHS Senior Jason Davalos Delivers Winning Speech at Rotary District Contest

PALM DESERT — Jason Davalos’ path to winning first place among competitors from throughout Riverside and San Bernardino Counties was challenging but rewarding.

After winning at Palm Desert Rotary Club’s March 14 Rotary Four-Way Test Speech Contest, the Palm Desert High School senior went on to the Rotary District contest where competitors hailed from throughout San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Jason, the son of Enrique and Graciela Davalos of Palm Desert, qualified as a finalist on April 18, and won first place in the April 25 finals.

In March of each year, Palm Desert Rotary Club holds a local contest in which Palm Desert High School students deliver speeches measuring a topic of their choice against the standards of the Rotary Four-Way Test. The international organization’s test of ethical behavior, known and recited by Rotarians around the world, asks, “Is it the truth, is it fair to all concerned, will it build goodwill and better friendships, and will it be beneficial to all concerned?”

Traditionally, the Rotary Four-Way Test Speech contest has been held on stage before live audiences, but in March 2020, during the coronavirus lockdown, Palm Desert Rotary Club contest managers pivoted to speeches recorded on video and judged via a private YouTube channel. In that first year, Palm Desert Rotary was one of a handful of clubs offering local contests, and no district contest was available. This year’s contest was fully virtual at both club and district levels.

Jason’s humorous but serious speech about overcoming weight gain during the pandemic apparently resonated with District-level judges. They ranked his speech first among ten district-level finalists. In his speech, Jason remarked that the buttons on his shirt had begun to practice social distancing,” and that he had to teach himself that carrot cake did not qualify as a vegetable.

At Palm Desert Rotary Club’s Zoom-based Four-Way Test Speech contest celebration on March 30, Jason told Palm Desert Rotarians that he chose his topic not only because of his own experience of weight gain during the pandemic, but because of his plans to become a nurse. Weight loss did pass the Rotary Four-Way Test, as Jason’s speech proved, because his commitment to model the ideal of being healthy will ultimately benefit his family members and future patients. Jason plans to use his speech contest winnings to purchase books and supplies as he begins his studies this fall at the Palm Desert campus of California State University – San Bernardino.