Joshua Hwang

January 24, 2014 6:06 pm Published by


Joshua Hwang is the founder and president of a new USC student organization called SpeechEmpowerment. Its goal is to teach high school students in Downtown Los Angeles the fundamentals of public speaking and debating. The ultimate objective is to provide these students a lifelong skill they can use to improve their academics, and open more doors in the future.  To achieve this, the organization designs and provides weekly after school lessons at Gertz-Ressler High School, focusing on the most useful styles of public speaking and debating.

I am not surprised that Josh founded this organization. Josh is one of the best public speakers I know and he makes his unique talent work for the community as a whole. For example, we’re both board members of a volunteer health club called Community Health Involvement Project. Whenever we need someone to give a speech or presentation, we ask Josh to do it. When our annual health fair needed a master of ceremony, Josh was perfect for the role.  When the church leaders of First African Methodist Episcopal Church asked our club to explain to the congregation why it was critical to get regular blood pressure and glucose measurements, Josh rose to the occasion and gave a really persuasive and motivational speech. Afterwards, one of the congregants succinctly described his speaking style: “the young man has great presence.” That’s why if anyone could create an organization to effectively teach public speaking and debating to local students, it would be Josh. 

What does surprise me, however, is how Josh finds not just the time, but also the conviction to make SpeechEmpowerment possible. We are both pre-medical students with difficult courses, research, and clinical volunteering to worry about.  I think he truly believes in the value and need for young students to learn public speaking and debating. He has mentioned to me repeatedly how teaching the high school students how to persuade others, convey ideas, and defend arguments now will enable them to stand out in college courses in the future. The skills also apply beyond college, by giving the students the ability to conduct stronger interviews, make better presentations, and have greater confidence.  Most importantly, Josh sees SpeechEmpowerment as a way to instill a strong sense of ambition and worldview in the high school students.  By having the students read periodicals like The New York Times and The Economist regularly, Josh has created an organization that doesn’t just improve reading, writing, and oratorical skills, it also teaches students to think big. 

I’ve watched Josh make his skill work for the greater community. I’ve seen him early in the morning catching the bus to meet with school officials and working late at night to develop lesson material. If there’s a student who is figuring out ways to change the world for the better-and training other young people along the way to do the same-it’s Josh Hwang. He’s an inspiring leader, and that is why I nominate him for the Be the Change Award. 

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