Friday, August 27, 2010

Historical speeches give some real world perpspective

Early in my Coker College public speaking semester we get involved in something called a 'manuscript' speech assignment for which I use the American Rhetoric 100 Greatest Speeches website. I find this a rich site as they provide both the copies of speeches and where it exists, visual and sound copies. The students are to select a two-minute excerpt of the speech to present from the text. The goal is primarily to get in front of the class with a prepared but not memorized presentation. A goal is preparation without have to be creative.

Beyond that this is a rich experience. The past couple of days we heard from Dwight Eisenhower, president of the United States, talking about the minds of men, the hearts of men and the souls of men. Who remembers that president as speech poet. Not many but his words will surprise and mesmerize. While on generals, I heard three different MacArthur talks with my favorite "Duty, Honor, Country." In today's world we forget that in the 1920s birth control was not just an awkward subject, it was an illegal subject that Margaret Sanger took on in public forums. The nation is in some serious discussions today but perspective comes as we listen to Stokley Carmichel, Lyndon Johnson or Malcolm X about the civil rights act.

Listening to the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, Shirley Chisholm and Hilary Clinton about women's rights being human rights shows there is a great deal of experience on which to build solutions to today's serious problems. I do enjoy this exercise.

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