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February 15, 2007 [ More archived home pages here ]

One More Speech To Go

Today's song is Inner City Blues, by Marvin Gaye, released in 1971.

I gave my ninth advanced level speech yesterday at my Twin Oaks Toastmasters club towards my Advanced Communicator Bronze (AC-B) award. I prepared my speech from the second project, Speaking In Praise from the Special Occasion Speeches Advanced Manual. The objectives of the speech were to:

  • Prepare a speech praising or honoring someone, either living or dead
  • Address five areas concerning the individual and his/her accomplishments
  • Include anecdotes illustrating points within the speech

I must have achieved those goals because I was voted Best Speaker by the sixteen attendees. I received the ribbon (shown above) and received great feedback comments and compliments on my speech from them.

We had four guests at that meeting, two were returning guests and they joined or will join next week. They soon will be on the same path I started on four years ago this month.

To present interesting speeches in front of the audience (not behind the lectern) without notes while using gestures, vocal variety, and appropriate body movements across the stage is an acquired skill. All who join our club learn to give speeches that way.

Below is the text of my prepared oral speech presented without notes before those at the meeting. The speech lasted six-minutes in duration. During my speech I illustrated my points with a PowerPoint slideshow using images to support my statements, increasing the visualization and impact.

To Be Dedicated

Most Americans accept the Declaration of Independence without pause. We are able to appreciate in full measure the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

That's a principle that applies to all peoples, but in past decades some state's policies were enacted to cause some Americans to feel unacceptable. Fortunately, a voice arose on their behalf, benefiting all of us.

I speak today in praise of one special human being who devoted his adult life to revoke those policies. That person directly influenced millions of people during the 1960's. I was one of those millions. I speak in praise of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for his work.

I was raised in a white middle-class Chicago neighborhood. I rarely saw people of color. I came to see their plight on black-and-white TV, where the contrasts in life-styles were clearly visible.

I watched Dr. King lead people in non-violent fashion on various marches. He continued to lead while fire-hoses and police dogs were set upon the marchers.

I observed that as a youngster in the early 1960's and realized, there was something drastically wrong that needed to be righted.

Dr. King worked to right that wrong, opening my mind to new ideas using non-violence as an effective leadership tool to create beneficial, democratic change for people of color.

One non-violent technique was his gift of using just the right words, in just the right order, at just the right time. Dr. King's words were clear and unambiguous. His voice delivered non-violent messages of hope to millions of people.

There is a memorial in Washington DC. It is named after President Abraham Lincoln. Dr. King gave a speech there in August 1963. You may have heard of it. It's the I Have A Dream speech.

Did you know he hadn't planned on revealing the dream during that speech? All the speakers that day were under strict time limits, as was Dr. King. He really didn't have time to fit his vision into his prepared remarks.

It was his supporters, standing behind him that had previously heard Dr. King mention this dream and they implored him to "tell them about the dream."

The result is one of the most powerful speeches ever recorded in history. If you heard it, you know what I mean.

Dr. King put all of America on notice that day. He let us all know what those words in the Declaration of Independence really mean. He was dedicated in his belief that the Declaration's message is equally meant for everyone.

Then he recited the first stanza of the song America. I will say that verse now to you, in my own style:

My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims' pride,
From every mountainside
Let freedom ring!

President Kennedy was watching all this on TV at the time. He was a great speaker himself, and yet he acknowledged Dr. King that day was, "damn good!"

Yes, Dr, King was doing something for his country that day. Just as President Kennedy asked Americans to do in his 1961 Inaugural Address.

In the main theme of his speeches over the years, Dr. King emphasized ignorance as the cause of racial hate. He said, ignorance was fostered by the conditions of poverty and lack of education, forces that undercut the Declaration's foundation.

Dr. King stressed the wisdom of assessing an individual on "the conduct of their character instead of the color of their skin".

For his Civil Rights efforts, Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Prize In Peace for 1964. He was present when President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law in 1965.

While those achievements provided impetus and validation of his social thesis, they didn't provide enough time to finish his work.

The night before he was assassinated, he told the crowd that he wasn't afraid to die for the cause. He saw the Promised Land and promised we could get there, if we really tried. That was April 1968.

The next day in an instant, he was gone. Shot down in his prime. Riots and flames spread out across the country. In my birth city, Chicago, the ashes from those fires are still there.

We have a long way to go before freedom rings everywhere in this great land of America. When you practice non-discrimination, that Freedom Bell rings. When you help someone who really needs it, you keep the dream alive.

That's the path to the Promised Land. It's not that hard to find. Martin lit the way for us, where we can be free at last.

---

I felt very good after giving that speech, it was one of the harder ones to present because of its emotional component.

I'll earn my AC-B educational award with my next speech. I already know what I want to say then. It's been four years in the making.

Don


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