Foreign Language Poetry Recitation Competition

The Foreign Language Poetry Recitation Competition celebrated its 25th anniversary here at FIT this year in two days of recitations in November. In a way, its longevity is a surprise—it is counter-intuitive. Who would expect, after all, that a college like FIT, whose entire raison d’etre is to promote career education, would so enthusiastically support an activity that really celebrates the principles of the liberal arts?

Winners and runners-up of the Foreign Language Poetry Recitation Competition.
Winners and runners-up of the Foreign Language Poetry Recitation Competition.

Still, here we are—25 years after Professor James Cascaito first inaugurated this competition—and we had, once again, a full house of students, faculty and friends cheering on our students who recited beautifully—in Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese and Spanish. Perhaps its success really shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to us. In its way, it is a testament to our remarkable and always surprising students as well as to Professor Cascaito that this competition took root here.

In fact, it expresses one of the core values and goals of an FIT education: to expand the learning experience across cultures and boundaries. And it reflects our commitment to the liberal arts—as well as to the global perspective that is a hallmark of the nation’s best institutions of higher education. In a very special way, it also honors the whole FIT community—which is made up of people from a multitude of religions, races, countries and cultures. What better tribute could be paid to this community than this effort to teach, understand and speak other languages—and to share an appreciation for the poetry of other cultures.

I have often said that this is one of my favorite FIT events. It is such a pleasure to listen to the recitations of our talented students. This year, they chose poems from ancient Chinese and Japanese masters, as well as from the 19th century French poet Paul Verlaine and the Latin American literary giant Jorge Luis Borges—among many others. The first place winners all come from our Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology. In Chinese, the winner was Daeyoung Foo (Fashion Merchandising Management); in French, Parinaz Heidari (Advertising Marketing Communications); in Italian, Sergio Falquez (Fashion Merchandising Management); in Japanese, Sara Vondruskova (Fashion Merchandising Management); in Spanish, Steven Simione (International Trade and Marketing).

I was only able to attend the first day of the competition so I had the opportunity to hear all of the finalists recite in the run-off. As far as I am concerned, each and every one of these students is a winner. By mastering another language, they opened their eyes, minds and hearts to another culture. By studying that culture’s poetry, they learned something of the power of its language to distill meaning and emotion. Finally, by entering this competition, they went beyond the classroom requirements and challenged themselves to seek true excellence. In the process, they expanded their horizons in a way that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. How wonderful that they were able to do that as an intrinsic part of their FIT career-focused education.

Listen to the winning recitations:

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