It’s the same shining city for those relative few who are lucky enough to live in its good neighborhoods. But for the people who are excluded, for the people who are locked out, all they can do is stare from a distance at that city’s glimmering towers.

– Mario Cuomo, 1984 DNC
RIP 1/1/2015

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There is more to Clarence Darrow than I thought. As the old story goes, the famous litigator slyly distracted juries with his cigar. He supposedly threaded a thin wire through the cigar to keep the burning ashes from falling. Enthralled juries would watch the ashes with anticipation instead of listening to the opposing counsel. True or not, the story has longevity for every negative attorney stereotype. Darrow’s most famous cases – The Scopes Monkey Trial and the murder trial of Leopold and Loeb – are noteworthy for their fame and sensationalism. For these bits of trivia, I quickly dismissed Darrow in my early days ofRead More →

Until the end of the last century, women didn’t stand up in front of audiences and give speeches on a regular basis. The women who chose to give speeches struggled with challenging gender norms just like women who entered male-dominated professions. Even today, men far outnumber women as politicians and CEOs, the kinds of folks who give speeches regularly in the public eye with media coverage. Nonetheless, as a 21st-century public, we’re more comfortable seeing women behind a microphone saying serious things. Plus, feminist scholars of rhetoric and feminist historians have uncovered the histories of many women speakers who contributed to US history, so ourRead More →

Students who take public speaking classes are fearful of delivering speeches. Although we work on speech anxiety in my classes, that is not our focus.Anxiety is a “fight or flight” physiological response left over from the “caveman” (That’s Sexist!) days when we needed adrenaline to face a predator. Since classmates are not predators, folks shouldn’t worry. There are many silly myths about how to handle speech anxiety, such as have a drink to knock the edge off, or look over people’s heads instead of making direct eye contact. Anything that keeps you from engaging with the audience is a mistake. The silliest of all isRead More →

Fellow-citizens, we can not escape history. We of this Congress and this Administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We, even we here, hold the power and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom to the free–honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just–a way which if followed the world will forever applaud and God must forever bless.

– Abraham Lincoln, Second Annual Message to the Senate and House of Representatives, 1862

Romney quoted Abraham Lincoln on the emancipation of slaves to advance an agenda for the 1%. Must be his love for bayonets and horses that inspired him.

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Using PowerPoint in speeches sucks. Always. Many speech teachers probably feel the same. PowerPoint becomes a teleprompter, which defeats the purpose of giving a speech. Last semester, I taught Business Communication for the first time in my entire teaching career. In thinking through that class, I felt obligated to teach PowerPoint since it’s expected in the business world. Also, the POD listserv, discusses visual resources a lot. Those two things motivated me to teach PowerPoint and to do it well. As a result of these explorations, I experimented this semester. One thing I incorporated is a Pecha Kucha format speech (you can use Prezi too,Read More →

Getting students invested in a public speaking class on the very first day can present a challenge. They see fear, a job skill, and something that they can wing through if only they can get over their nervous stomach and stand up in front of their peers without puking. How do you teach a student the value of a speech class? Here’s a fun activity for early in the semester that I’ve used successfully: 1. Assign students to search the web for the cheapest public speaking lesson, class, seminar or workshop. The class cannot be from a college or university such as a continuing edRead More →

After a challenging semester of public speaking in the fall, it seems that faith indeed gets rewarded. This semester, public speaking classes are simply awsum! There is no other way to describe it. EVERY SINGLE STUDENT was ready to give speeches today. Early on, our discussions were great, the students were responsive in class, and things were going swimmingly. Today confirmed these sentiments with something objective and observable. See? On days like today, work does not feel like work. *happydance*Read More →

Students stumped me this week over my information literacy quest about how to peel a hard-boiled egg, which is now a homework activity for public speaking. First, a bit about the activity: The homework requires the students to follow a list of the sources and determine the best way to peel an egg. The point of the assignment is to evaluate the credibility of internet cites and learn that (1) the first Google hits aren’t necessarily valid, and (2) credibility isn’t necessarily obvious at first blush. A colleague who is a librarian mentioned once that people rarely look past the first page of search engineRead More →

New technologies erode the boundary between the personal and the public, as Joshua Meyrowitz observed about television in No Sense of Place twenty five years ago. Since displaying ourselves is de rigeur, thanks especially to Facebook and Twitter, I feel less guilty about doing it on my blog, even though personal disclosure was never my original intent. In class, students appear to enjoy my disclosure. Still, there’s an art to disclosing appropriately in the classroom, one that has taken me years to balance comfortably. As one friend put it, it’s easy “to hold your students hostage” to your personal narratives in class, which is anRead More →