What is Justice?

One issue for students preparing or submitting speeches is understanding whether they are addressing a justice issue.

NOTE – good speeches on social justice topics argue that the audience can and should make changes in some way, that will lead to positive outcomes for other people who are marginalised in some way. ie the speeches include a problem and some possible solutions, preferably also with a call to action.

NOTE – Some of the speeches submitted in 2017 were only marginally or questionably about social justice. This makes it difficult for the judges to assess. So if you want a better chance of winning, please ensure the speech is clearly about an issue of social justice.

Some topics will be more easily understood as justice issues – eg arguing that modern slavery is wrong. However, for other issues that might only be debatably about a social justice issue, it would be important for the speech to demonstrate clearly why the issue should be considered to be a justice issue.

Some definitions might be helpful –
“Social justice relates to the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.”
“Social justice is a political and philosophical concept which holds that all people should have equal access to wealth, health, wellbeing, justice and opportunity.”

From  Caritas NZ
Social justice is the promotion of just societies and treatment of individuals and communities based on the belief that we each possess an innate human dignity.
It is the promotion of respect for creation, and principles of stewardship, participation, the common good, solidarity, subsidiarity and the preferential option for the poor and the vulnerable.
Social justice activists aim to see this achieved in the world that we live in now and for future generations. Social justice issues revolve around structures or human actions within society that result in people being treated unfairly or unjustly. Addressing social justice issues could mean:

  • Working against discrimination
  • Mitigating the effects of climate change on communities
  • Ensuring workers are treated fairly and are valued
  • Preventing the marginalisation of people from society
  • Challenging unjust government policies that contribute to the oppression of some people in a society
  • Ensuring the powerful don’t abuse their power
  • Promoting peace instead of violence
  • Ensuring men and women are able to flourish
  • Preventing corruption

Some Practical Examples of Speeches

Happiness – a speech arguing that lack of happiness is a major issue in the world today, and that the audience could move to change this by changing what they pursue in life and what they think will make them happy. This is NOT a social justice speech.

Societal Bullying – a speech arguing that society bullies people (including the audience) trying to make them conform to societal rules – and that the audience should see this for what it is, and resist it. This is NOT a social justice speech.