Goshen College sophomore Denisse Aguilar wins 2021 peace oratorical contest

GOSHEN, Ind. - Goshen College sophomore Denisse Aguilar, a psychology and sociology major from Goshen, won the 2021 C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest and $300 in prize money on Feb. 16 with her speech titled “Living the American Dream on Borrowed Time.”

“My parents came to the U.S. in search of this idea of economic transcendence,” she said. “The idea of creating a good life by following instructions and working hard, the American dream.”

Aguilar spoke about her experience as a beneficiary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the uncertainty she has felt and her inspiration at the resiliency of other DACA recipients. 

However, throughout high school and as she began college, her DACA status seemed like both a blessing and uncertainty. 

“My future had been built on a two-year by two-year basis, and thinking further than that seemed like overreaching,” Aguilar said. “And during this time, I thought ‘Am I just living the American dream on borrowed time?'” 

Aguilar encouraged listeners to be good advocates and to work together to create a peaceful, caring and safe environment for all.

“This has been part of my story, yet there are still 799,000 others that you have not heard,” she said. “Therefore, I urge you to listen and display compassion and empathy for those around you. And more importantly, if you have found your voice, as I recently have, use it. Use your voice for those who have been silenced.”  With this win, Aguilar will be entered into the binational intercollegiate Mennonite Central Committee C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest.