Seven-year-old delivered keynote address at Student Leadership Awards evening. Picture: Supplied
Cape Town - Most adults would struggle to quote Voltaire, never mind even doing it in French, in front of a room filled with students and academics.

However, 7-year-old James Capstick-Dale did this effortlessly when he delivered the keynote address at the prestigious UCT Student Leadership Awards evening. And, he delivered the speech in four languages.

The ceremony was to honour accomplished young role models at the university, with outstanding leadership abilities in a range of categories, something which James visibly exuded on the night.

The young boy’s speech not only managed to captivate the room, but it has also gone on to be viewed more than 10000 times on YouTube and other social media platforms.

He was given a standing ovation by the audience, including UCT vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng.

“The reaction from the students was incredible,” his mother Tamra Capstick-Dale said. “He was the talk of the event, and he impressed. It was quite an achievement. You can teach a child to recite something easily, but it’s much more difficult to teach them cadence and delivery. He read his audience very well for someone his age.”

He practised twice a day for six weeks, she said.

His speech included mentions by historical figures, especially one of his favourites, Sir Winston Churchill.

Capstick-Dale said that since history was not yet taught at James’s school, she taught it to him, along Greek mythology in French.

The first major public speech James gave was when he was 6 years old. The speech was about “sacrifice and liberty”, and the role of Churchill in World War II.

“Speaking in public is a skill, and not everyone can do it. But it is a learned skill. Most importantly, I’m teaching him the power of words,” the proud mom said.

“It’s about the wisdom of using your words correctly and using them to inspire. He is a lovely, kind, well-mannered and thoughtful kid.”

She said she strives to ensure that he has balance, and the freedom to pursue what he wants.

“When he grows up, he wants to be an astrophysicist. When he’s not speaking in public, he plays rugby and cricket, does karate and swimming, takes extramural French and Spanish classes, and indulges his love of maths.”

James not only does maths in French, but he also does Kumon Maths and Singapore Maths in English.

"He has a big interest in reading, playing outside, and is very confident and comfortable in adult company.

"He isn't interested in cell phones and tablets, and he'd rather engage with people or play outside."

When asked how he reacted to the news of his speech going viral Tamra replied:

“He said: 'Oh, wow, thanks mum, may I have some juice please'.”


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Cape Argus