“Oratory is the parent of liberty. By the constitution of things it was ordained that eloquence should be the last stay and support of liberty, and that with her she is ever destined to live, to flourish, and to die. It is to the interest of tyrants to cripple and debilitate every species of eloquence. They have no other safety. It is then, the duty of free states to foster oratory.” ~Henry Hardwicke
Students are often asked to give oral reports and speeches in school, but rarely do teachers require students to analyze famous speeches as carefully as we study other classic works of literature. With the prevalence of social media, it may seem like brilliant oratory is a thing of the past, but it doesn’t have to be! Why not study history’s greatest speeches and learn lessons from these speeches as to what makes them so great?
All oratory is public speaking, but not all public speaking is oratory. Oratory is persuasive speech elevated to a higher status. Great orators are keen to address the counterarguments likely to be raised by critics and deftly defuse them. The best speech writers construct their sentences carefully, arranging them to flow together to build rhythm, while choosing words and phrases that conjure up vivid imagery. Great oratory contains allusions to human nature, religion, science, literature and poetry as related to current events and organized into a cohesive, unified whole.
If public speaking is fast food, oratory is a gourmet meal. Not in pretentiousness or inaccessibility, but in the fact that oratory exists above the ordinary; it is prepared with passion, infused with creativity, and masterfully crafted to offer a sublime experience. Oratory seeks to convince the listener of something, whether that is to accept a certain definition of freedom or simply of the fact that the recently deceased was a person worthy to be mourned.
Oratory has been called the highest art for it encompasses all other disciplines. It requires a knowledge of literature, the ability to construct prose, and an ear for rhythm, harmony and musicality. Oratory is not mere speaking, but speech that appeals to our noblest sentiments, animates our souls, stirs passions and emotions, and inspires virtuous action. It is often at its finest when fostered during times of tragedy, pain, crisis, fear, and turmoil. In these situations it serves as a light, a guide to those who cannot themselves make sense of the chaos and look to a leader to point the way. ~Brett & Kate McKay
Lightning Speech, by Elizabeth Kamath
Lightning Speech, published by Hewitt Homeschooling Resources, is a high school curriculum designed specifically for homeschoolers to be used as a one semester speech course! Students will read a variety of speeches from ancient to modern times, and learn how to write their own. Studying the time-tested techniques and strategies used by history’s most famous orators will inspire you in your own speaking and writing.
Explore great openings with Jonathan Edwards and General Colin Powell, then develop your content wisely with help from the great orator Daniel Webster, President George Washington, and Gandhi. Susan B. Anthony and Carl Sagan demonstrate the importance of factual argument, while Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther, and Elie Wiesel provide help in organization. A speech means an audience, and that is emphasized through speeches by Benjamin Franklin and William Faulkner, among others. Take your speech from good to great with powerful word choice and well constructed sentences just as Queen Elizabeth I, Sojourner Truth, and Chief Joseph did. Improve your rhetorical style with such masters as William Shakespeare, Theodore Roosevelt, and Chief Seattle. Always leave them wanting more by ending your speech with the same punch as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, or Abraham Lincoln.
While this course is geared primarily towards writing speeches, tips for giving oral speeches are also included. But keep in mind that this is meant to be a literature study, not a speech and debate class, although it certainly would be a useful elective for students involved in forensics. It’s also good for students interested in history.
The student book includes comprehension questions, writing exercises, and reading lists. A free teacher’s guide is included in this set sold at Amazon. The teacher’s guide includes semester and full-year schedules, answers to the comprehension questions, and bibliography. The speeches studied are all contained in the book Lend Me Your Ears (see below), which is required for the course (and also available at Amazon).
Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History, by William Safire
The definitive compendium of classic and modern oratory expanded―with a new preface about the ten characteristics that make a speech “great.” An instant classic when it was first published a decade ago and now enriched by seventeen new speeches, Lend Me Your Ears contains more than two hundred outstanding moments of oratory. This collection of speeches is selected, arranged, and introduced by William Safire, who honed his skills as a presidential speechwriter. He is considered by many to be America’s most influential political columnist and most elegant explicator of our language in modern times.
Covering speeches from ancient Greece to the 21st century, Demosthenes to George W. Bush, this latest edition includes the words of Cromwell to the “Rump Parliament,” Orson Welles eulogizing Darryl F. Zanuck, General George Patton exhorting his troops before D-Day, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaking on Bush v. Gore. A new section incorporates speeches that were never delivered: what Kennedy was scheduled to say in Dallas; what Safire wrote for Nixon if the first moon landing met with disaster; and what Clinton originally planned to say after his grand jury testimony but swapped for a much fiercer speech. This hefty volume contains over 1,000 pages!
About Hewitt Homeschooling Resources
Hewitt Homeschooling Resources, a well-respected provider of K-12 curricula, has been in business for over 30 years. With customers in all fifty states and around the world, they provide quick reliable service to online customers, and walk-in service to customers in southwest Washington and Portland, Oregon. Their store is located at 2013 Main Street in Washougal, WA. Stop by and visit them on your way to Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument!
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