June 11:  Civil Right Day

On this day in 1963, President John F. Kennedy addressed the nation from the Oval Office proposing that Congress begin the process of drafting a Civil Rights Act.  Many view August 5, 1963, the date of the March on Washington, as the most significant date in the history of civil rights, but because of Kennedy’s speech and because of the other events of that day, June 11, 1963, deserves consideration as the day that launched a revolution in civil rights.

President Kennedy addresses nation on Civil Rights, 11 June 1963.jpgThe event that sparked Kennedy’s speech occurred in Alabama earlier in the day.  At the University of Alabama, Governor George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door attempting to block the entrance of two black students.  For many white Americans in 1963, the issue of segregation was largely a regional political issue. In the speech he gave from the Oval Office, Kennedy made civil rights a national issue.  In addition, he addressed it not just as a political issue but a moral one.

The year 1963 was the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, and in his speech, Kennedy linked the plight of African-Americans with the character and the unity of the entire nation:

One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and economic oppression. And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.

More than just reporting what was happening in Alabama, Kennedy was inviting all Americans to do something for their country by playing a positive role in the sweeping change.  He was asking Americans to support the kind of actions that would allow the United States to fulfill its promise to all it citizens:

We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is the land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettos, no master race except with respect to Negroes?

Now the time has come for this Nation to fulfill its promise. The events in Birmingham and elsewhere have so increased the cries for equality that no city or State or legislative body can prudently choose to ignore them. The fires of frustration and discord are burning in every city, North and South, where legal remedies are not at hand. Redress is sought in the streets, in demonstrations, parades, and protests which create tensions and threaten violence and threaten lives.

We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and a people. It cannot be met by repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased demonstrations in the streets. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is a time to act in the Congress, in your State and local legislative body and, above all, in all of our daily lives. It is not enough to pin the blame on others, to say this a problem of one section of the country or another, or deplore the facts that we face. A great change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all. Those who do nothing are inviting shame, as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right, as well as reality . . . .

The old code of equity law under which we live commands for every wrong a remedy, but in too many communities, in too many parts of the country, wrongs are inflicted on Negro citizens and there are no remedies at law. Unless the Congress acts, their only remedy is the street.

I am, therefore, asking the Congress to enact legislation giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public — hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments. This seems to me to be an elementary right. Its denial is an arbitrary indignity that no American in 1963 should have to endure, but many do. (1)

Kennedy’s speech with its moral and forceful tone set the stage for the March on Washington two month later, where Martin Luther King would give his great “I Have a Dream” speech.  In the history books, King’s speech has largely overshadowed Kennedy’s June speech. However, without Kennedy’s push for and endorsement of legislative action, the Civil Rights Act might not have become a reality.  

After Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963, his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson made Kennedy’s dream a reality, signing the bill into law on July 2, 1964 (2).

Today’s Challenge:  You Say You Want a Revolution

What are the issues today that need reform or change?  What are the specific problems with the status quo, and how might specific revolutionary changes improve the situation for everyone?  Brainstorm some issues that you think might be ripe for reform.  Select one, and identify what the problems are with the status quo, and present possible solutions that might bring about positive change. Write the text of a brief speech presenting the issue, the problems, and your solution.  (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  You see things; and you say “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say “Why not?” -George Bernard Shaw

1-http://dubois.fas.harvard.edu/sites/all/files/JFK%20Civil%20Rights%20Speech%20June%2011,%201963.pdf

2-Joseph, Peniel E..  “Kennedy’s Finest Moment.”  New York Times 10 June 2013.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/11/opinion/kennedys-civil-rights-triumph.html?mcubz=0

 

June 6: D-Day

On this day in 1944, the largest invasion in history began as the Allied armies assaulted the beaches of Normandy, France with 133,000 soldiers from England, Canada, and the United States. The war in Europe would not end until nearly one year after D-Day, but without a successful invasion on June 6th, the progress of the war and the final outcome certainly would have been different. As a result, if you were to talk about the single most influential day or moment in the 20th century, you would be hard-pressed to find any more faithful day than June 6, 1944.

On the morning of June 6, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces General Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered the following “Order of the Day” to the Allied forces as they awaited their appointment with history:

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Forces: You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!

Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking. (1)

Thousands of copies of Eisenhower’s message were printed on small enough pieces of paper that soldiers could keep them in their wallets or breast pockets (2).

Like the Gettysburg Address, which was only 272 words, Eisenhower wrote a concise message of only 238 words.  In language that was forceful, honest, and direct, he clearly presented the mission and its importance to each soldier, sailor, and airman.

As well as planning for victory on D-Day, Eisenhower also had the unpleasant task of preparing for possible defeat. One day before D-Day, Eisenhower wrote out the following brief message on a piece of paper:

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone (3).

The term D-Day was a general military term that referred to the day which a combined attack would take place, especially when that day needed to be kept secret.  Because of the enormous size and success of the Normandy assault, however, today we see D-Day as synonymous with June 6, 1944.

Today’s Challenge:  Micro Motivational Message

What is a situation in which a single leader might address a group of people with a short motivational message?  What would be specific examples of a speaker/leader, a group, and the group’s mission? Brainstorm some possible situations in which a leader might address a group with a specific mission.  Think about the specific speaker/leader, his or her audience, and the specific motivational purpose. Select a single situation, and write your message of approximately 250 words.  Write in the persona of the specific leader, writing the specific motivational words that the leader might present to help his or her audience succeed in their mission.

Examples:

-A teacher speaking to a class about how to succeed on the final test.

-A coach speaking to his or her team about how to win a big game.

-A manager talking to his or her sales team about how to break sales records for the month.

A band leader talking to his or her group about how to play the best gig ever.

-A mayor talking to town citizens about how to make their town great.

(Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day: Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. -Dwight D. Eisenhower

1-https://www.archives.gov/historical-docs/todays-doc/?dod-date=606

2-http://www.anythinganywhere.com/commerce/military/usa-ike-dday.jpg

3-http://www.npr.org/2013/06/08/189535104/the-speech-eisenhower-never-gave-on-the-normandy-invasion

June 4:  Repetition for Effect Day

On this date in 1940, Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressed the House of Commons and the British people.  France had fallen to Nazi Germany, but all was not lost: over 300,000 allied soldiers had been successfully evacuated from Dunkirk.  Churchill’s purpose in this speech was to buoy the spirits of the British people. Europe had fallen, but the British Empire would not give up and would not go down without a fight.

In the final paragraph, or preoration, of his speech, Churchill unleashed one of history’s most dramatic finishes:

We shall fight on the seas and oceans,

 we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air,

 we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be.

We shall fight on the beaches,

 we shall fight on the landing grounds,

 we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,

 we shall fight in the hills;

 we shall never surrender . . . .

There’s a fine line between repetition and redundancy, but as demonstrated by Churchill, when employed at the right time and at the right place, repetition can create the kind of dramatic emphasis that rolls and resonates like ocean waves repeatedly crashing on the rocky shore.  Churchill, a master of rhetoric, knew what he was doing. He knew just when and just where to employ this echo effect for maximum impact.

Another element of Churchill’s mastery is his use of succinct, simple language.  As he explains in his “Scaffolding of Rhetoric,” published when he was 23 years old:

The shorter words of a language are usually the more ancient. Their meaning is more ingrained in the national character and they appeal with greater force to simple understandings than words recently introduced from the Latin and the Greek. All the speeches of great English rhetoricians–except when addressing highly cultured audiences–display a uniform preference for short, homely words of common usage–so long as such words can fully express their thoughts and feelings…

Today’s Challenge:  You Can Say That Again

Some of the best-known sayings, expression, titles, and aphorisms in the English language use repetition for effect:

No pain, no gain

First come, first served

United we stand, divided we fall

Put up or shut up

Never Say Never Again

What are some examples of great quotations that repeat at least one significant word?  What would you say is the best thing ever said with repetition? Read the quotations below as examples; then, research a quotation that you think is particularly well stated.  In addition to presenting the quotation and the name of the speaker, explain why you like the quotation based on both what it says and how it says it.

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. -William Shakespeare

There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why. -William Barclay

The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. -Ellen Parr

When a person can no longer laugh at himself, it is time for others to laugh at him. -Thomas Szasz

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Martin Luther King Jr.

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.Albert Einstein

(Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  Repetition is based on body rhythms, so we identify with the heartbeat, or with walking, or with breathing. -Karlheinz Stockhausen

1-https://www.winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/1940-the-finest-hour/we-shall-fight-on-the-beaches

June 1:  Commencement Day

Today is the anniversary of a commencement address that really was not a commencement address at all. The story begins with Mary Schmich, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Chicago Tribune. On June 1, 1997, she published a column that was so insightful that it took on a life of its own.

Somehow an urban legend evolved that Schmich’s words were a commencement address by author Kurt Vonnegut to the 1997 graduates of MIT.  The truth is, however, Vonnegut did not present a commencement address to MIT in 1997, nor did he have anything to do with the writing of Schmich’s column.

The title of Schmich’s column was Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young, and here is an excerpt:

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97:

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now. Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself . . . .

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen (1).

The word commencement comes to English via Latin. It simply means a beginning or a start. This probably explains the tone of most commencement speeches, which honor the accomplishments of graduates but focus primarily on what is to come in the real world. As a result, most commencement addresses are full of advice.

Today’s Challenge: Commence with the Advice

What advice would you give to graduates?  Imagine that have been asked to dispense commencement advice to a crowd of high school or college graduates.  What advice would you give them? As you write, select your verbs carefully. Good advice hinges on vivid, precise verbs. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  I have two last pieces of advice. First, being pre-approved for a credit card does not mean you have to apply for it. And lastly, the best career advice I can give you is to get your own TV show. It pays well, the hours are good, and you are famous. And eventually some very nice people will give you a doctorate in fine arts for doing jack squat.

–Stephen Colbert, 2006 Knox College Commencement Address

1- Schmich, Mary. Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young.  Chicago Tribune. 1 June 1997.

May 24:  Toastmasters Day

On this day in 1905, the very first Toastmasters meeting was held in Bloomington, Illinois.  The idea for the club was hatched by Ralph C. Smedley, an education director with the YMCA, who wanted to teach speaking skills to the young men in his community.  

Toastmasters 2011.pngToday, Toastmasters clubs span the globe in 142 countries, providing men and women opportunities to practice their public speaking.  The major focus of Toastmasters International, a nonprofit agency, is to develop leaders through the teaching of effective communication skills.  At weekly Toastmasters meetings, members present a range of different talks, gaining valuable speaking experiences.

As stated at the Toastmaster International website, the collaborative nature of the clubs are an essential ingredient in their success:

By regularly giving speeches, gaining feedback, leading teams and guiding others to achieve their goals in a supportive atmosphere, leaders emerge from the Toastmasters program. Every Toastmasters journey begins with a single speech. During their journey, they learn to tell their stories. They listen and answer. They plan and lead. They give feedback—and accept it. Through our community of learners, they find their path to leadership.

Don’t let speaking drive you nuts.  Use PECAN

One way to improve your public speaking skills is to identify the specific elements that lead to a successful presentation.  PECAN is a mnemonic device that will help you remember five key elements of a successful presentation:

Pace, Eye Contact, Control, Articulation, and Non-verbal Communication

PACE: Think Goldilocks

The timing and pace of any speech is an essential element. Remember, your audience hears your speech only once, so practice your speech with an ear to your rhythm and your pace.  As you practice, try not to go too fast or too slow; instead, aim to make it just right. When people get nervous, they tend to speed up, so practice with a stopwatch until you get your time down within a 10-second window of your predicted time.  Always mark your speech to remind you to vary your speed, pacing, and pauses. Use pauses at appropriate times and avoid any pauses that don’t compliment your message. Watch out for verbal ticks (um, like, ya know); again, practice will help you eliminate these so that they don’t distract from your message.

EYE CONTACT:  Engage Your Audience and Get Feedback

Make eye contact with your audience and smile a little at the very beginning of any speech.  Eye contact is essential to make human contact with your audience. Look at your audience so that each person in the room feels involved.  You cannot connect with the audience without eye contact, and if you don’t connect with the audience, you can’t get your message across to them.  Eye contact will also give you instant feedback about your performance.

Don’t try to memorize your speech, but practice it so that you know it so well that you can say it, not read it.  Make marks on your speech to remind yourself to look up; at the very minimum, you should be able to do this at the end of every sentence. As you gain experience and confidence with eye contact, practice moving your head to look at each person in the room.  Strive to make as much eye contact as possible and try to spend more time looking at the audience than looking at your speech.

CONTROL:  Keep Calm and Carry On  

Public speaking is not easy and having fear and anxiety before and during your speech is natural.  The key is to harness the nervous energy and use it to motivate your preparation and practice. The goal is to appear calm and confident so that the audience can focus on the content of your speech and to avoid being distracted by anything that is not relevant to your message.  

Use the tree as your metaphor for control.  Trees are natural, and they have a solid base below – a trunk.  A tree also has branches that move naturally in the wind. Like the tree, keep your feet planted, stand up straight, and balance your weight evenly.  Use your upper body – your arms, hands, and head – to compliment your message, moving them naturally like the limbs of the tree in the wind. Everyone has idiosyncrasies of speech and behavior, the problem is that these get exaggerated when we get nervous.  This is why you must practice. Be aware of shuffling, fidgeting, wiggling or nervous gestures that might distract from your speech. As you gain experience you will become more aware of your weaknesses and will become more confident with strategies to eliminate them.

Another key element of control is staying focused and ignoring distracts.  Don’t allow anyone in the audience to distract you. Maintain the tone that is appropriate for your speech.  If you lose focus or burst out in inappropriate laughter, it is your fault. You are responsible for being in control of your speech from beginning to end.

ARTICULATION:  Your Audience Hears Your Speech Just Once

To articulate means to express yourself as fluently, as coherently, and as eloquently as possible.  Part of articulation is the volume of your voice. You do not need to yell, but you do need to speak loudly enough for everyone in the room to hear you.  If you naturally speak at a low volume, practice raising it a bit. Also, make sure to enunciate your words so that they are as clear as possible. If you speak too softly, mumble, or blur words together, your audience will not be able to understand your speech.  

Another key element of articulation is the variety of your voice.  Mark your speech to ensure that you include vocal variety. Consider where you will pause and where you will emphasise certain words and phrases.  You must build-in vocal variety to avoid just reading your speech in a monotone manner. You must try to make your written words sound as natural as possible.  To do this vary your sentence lengths and types, and practice your speech out loud. The other thing you must do is to practice your speech enough so that it doesn’t sound scripted.

The final key element of articulation is the tone of your voice. Putting together a clearly organized speech with cogent reasoning is vital, but the best speeches combine reason (logos) with emotion and passion (pathos).  With passion, you will be able to animate your message and transfer it to your audience. If you care and believe what you are saying, there is a more likely chance that your audience will accept what you are saying. Consider the tones of your speech, and as you practice make those tones come alive with your voice.  If you just read your speech with no passion, emotion, or feeling, it will sound as if you don’t care about what you’re saying. If you don’t care, your audience won’t either. And remember, one of the major purposes of any speech is to move your audience to think and to feel.

NONVERBAL CUES: Match Your Movements to Your Message

The advantage of spoken language over written language is that you can include nonverbal gestures to enhance the understanding of your message.  The key is to use body language, gestures, and facial expressions that enhance your message instead of distracting from it. As you practice, think about what you will do with your hands.  Placing them on the podium is better than fidgeting. Again, everything you do should serve your speech and your audience, so any gestures that distract should be eliminated. This is why you must practice so that you include gestures that work and eliminate gestures that don’t.  

Wear appropriate clothing for your presentation.  Just like gestures and body language, what you wear should complement your speech.   

Today’s Challenge:  PECAN Pie

What are the most important elements of effective public speaking?  Watch a Ted Talk or other public presentation, and use the elements of PECAN to evaluate the effectiveness of the presentations.  Use the metaphor of a pecan pie, and identify each of the five elements as a slice of the presentation. Draw a circle and make specific notes on the speaker’s Pace, Eye Contact, Control, Articulation, and Non-Verbal Cues (Common Core Speaking and Listening)

Quotation of the Day:  Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue . . . -William Shakespeare

May 9:  Turn Off the TV Day

Today is the anniversary of a memorable speech by Newton Minow, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, to the National Association of Broadcasters. The year was 1961, and Minow did not have many good things to say about commercial television. His speech, where he called television “a vast wasteland,” sparked a national debate about the quality, or lack thereof, of television programming.

Newton Minow 2006.jpgSince Minow’s speech, television has been called the idiot box and the boob tube. Television viewers have become couch potatoes (1979), and the number of channels has grown to more than 500, but “nothing is on.”

Here’s an excerpt from Minow’s indictment:

But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there without a book, magazine, newspaper, profit and loss sheet or rating book to distract you — and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland.

You will see a procession of game shows, violence, audience participation shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And, endlessly, commercials — many screaming, cajoling, and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you will see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, try it. (1)

While Minow’s phrase “a vast wasteland” caught on, his speech certainly did not discourage the growth of television sets in American homes. In an age of reality television, satellite television, and 24-hour sports and cable news stations, television is more popular than ever.

One question that has been asked by educators since the advent of commercial television is: What is the relationship between television viewing and reading? One particularly interesting answer to this question was given by Norman Mailer in the January 23, 2005 edition of Parade Magazine. In the article, Mailer says that the one thing that he would do to change America for the better would be to get rid of television commercials. Mailer argues that the constant interruptions of commercials disrupt our children’s ability to read effectively by denying them something that is necessary for reading: concentration.

Here is an excerpt from Mailer’s Parade essay:

When children become interested in an activity, their concentration is firm—until it is interrupted. Sixty years ago, children would read for hours. Their powers of concentration developed as naturally as breathing. Good readers became very good readers, even as men and women who go in for weight-lifting will bulk up . . . . Each of the four major networks now offers 52 minutes of commercials in the three hours from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. every day. It is equal to saying that every seven, 10 or 12 minutes, our attention to what is happening on the tube is cut into by a commercial. It is as bad for most children’s shows. Soon enough, children develop a fail-safe. Since the child knows that any interesting story will soon be amputated by a kaleidoscope of toys, food, dolls, clowns, new colors and the clutter of six or seven wholly different products all following one another in 10-, 20- and 30-second spots all the way through a three-minute break, the child also comes to recognize that concentration is not one’s friend but is treacherous. (2)

Today’s Challenge:  Boob Tube Best or Worst

What are some of the television programs of the past or present that you would argue represent the best and worst television programs of all time?  Brainstorm a list of the best and worst television programs of all time.  Select one program that you know well, and make your argument for why this program is either the best or worst program.  Don’t assume your audience is familiar with the program. In addition to making your argument, give some background describing the program and its genre. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day: Television is a new medium. It’s called a medium because nothing is well-done. –Fred Allen

1-http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/newtonminow.htm

2-http://www.parade.com/articles/editions/2005/edition_01-23-2005/featured_0

 

May 6: Sub Four Day

On this day in 1954, English medical student Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile in a time of 3:59.4.  Before Bannister broke the four-minute barrier, the world record for the mile was 4:01.3. At the time, many thought that running under four minutes was physically impossible, but once Bannister did it, the barrier proved to be more of a psychological barrier than a physical one. A little more than a month after Bannister’s record run, Australian John Landy lowered the world record to 3:58 (2).

Long before the four-minute mile became a subject of public interest, there was another four-minute related event that played a part in the U.S. effort in World War I.  As the United States entered the war in 1917, President Woodrow Wilson realized that winning the propaganda war at home was in some ways just as important as winning the ground war in Europe.  

Wilson created an organization called the Committee on Public Information (CPI) to manage the news and to promote support for the war.  One essential wing of the CPI was a group called the “Four Minute Men,” an army of 75,000 volunteers who gave short speeches in support of the war whenever the opportunity presented itself.  For the CPI, the four-minute time limit was an essential element for success. Speeches need to be short, precise, and to the point. Long before anyone had ever heard of the “sound bite,” CPI published bulletins with tips on how to make every word of a speech count:

General Suggestions to Speakers

The speech must not be longer than four minutes, which means there is no time for a single wasted word.

Speakers should go over their speech time and time again until the ideas are firmly fixed in their mind and can not be forgotten. This does not mean that the speech needs to be written out and committed [memorized], although most speakers, especially when limited in time, do best to commit.

Divide your speech carefully into certain divisions, say 15 seconds for final appeal; 45 seconds to describe the bond; 15 seconds for opening words, etc., etc. Any plan is better than none, and it can be amended every day in the light of experience.

There never was a speech yet that couldn’t be improved. Never be satisfied with success. Aim to be more successful, and still more successful. So keep your eyes open. Read all the papers every day, to find a new slogan, or a new phraseology, or a new idea to replace something you have in your speech. (2)

The word propaganda derives from the Latin propagar, meaning to increase or to grow, as in the propagation of plants or crops. As a metaphor, it was originally used by the Catholic church, relating to the growth or spreading of the Christian faith.  It later evolved to be used in relation to the spreading of secular ideas. In the mid-19th century, the word began to acquire negative connotations based on its use in describing the deceptive promotion of political messages.

Today’s Challenge:  Speaking a Mile in Under Four Minutes

What is an idea that you have that is truly worth propagating or promoting?  Generate some claims that you truly feel are worth spreading, not through propaganda, but through the responsible use of persuasive appeals.  Write the text of a speech that will come in as close as possible, but not a second over, four minutes. (Common Core Writing 1 – Persuasion)

Quotation of the Day:  The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win. -Roger Bannister

1-http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-four-minute-mile

2-http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/4970/

April 30: Advantageous Day

On this day in 1939, New York Yankee first baseman Lou Gehrig played his 2,130th consecutive major league game.  The game he played that day against the Washington Senators would also be the final game of his career. Not long after his final game, Gehrig learned that he had an incurable and fatal disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) — a disease known today as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  

Lou Gehrig as a new Yankee 11 Jun 1923.jpgIn his 17 seasons, all as a Yankee, Gehrig was a World Series champion six times, an All-Star seven consecutive times, an American League Most Valuable Player twice, and a Triple Crown winner once.  Gehrig was the first major league baseball player to have his number (4) retired, and he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York in 1939.

In June 1939, the New York Yankees officially announced Gehrig’s retirement, and on July 4, 1939, they invited him to speak at Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day (1).

On that day, Gehrig gave what has become not just one of the single most memorable speeches in sports history, but one of the most memorable speeches in history, period.

It was a speech of startling magnanimity.  Everyone in Yankee Stadium that day came to honor Gehrig and to share the sorrow of a career and a life that would be cut short.  Under the circumstances, it would be natural for the speaker to give a mournful, gloomy speech about himself, about his bad luck, and about all he had lost.  Instead, Gehrig spoke in positive and thankful tones, focusing not on himself but on all the people who helped to make him the “luckiest man in the world.”

Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans. Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day?

Sure I’m lucky.

Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy?

Sure I’m lucky.

When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift – that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies — that’s something.

When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter — that’s something.

When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body — it’s a blessing.

When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed — that’s the finest I know.

So, I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.

The effectiveness of Gehrig’s speech illustrates an ancient principle of rhetoric.  Aristotle taught that giving a speech is about much more than just what you want to say; instead, it’s important to consider the audience.  The Aristotelian triangle is a model that helps speakers and writers assess the rhetorical situation. The triangle’s three points are the speaker, the subject, and the audience. Looking at all three points of the triangle reminds us that the speaker is only one part of the formula for successful persuasion.  Truly successful speakers, like Gehrig, must appeal to the audience’s advantage. Therefore, when we think about our purpose in speaking, we should not just ask, “What’s in it for us?” Instead, we should ask, “What’s in it for them?”  As the American humorist, Will Rogers put it: “When you go fishing you bait the hook, not with what you like, but what the fish likes” (2).

Winning rhetoric always employs “The Advantageous” by considering the rhetorical situation from the audience’s point of view.  Gehrig might have made his speech all about himself; instead, he made his message much more inclusive by considering his audience.  His thankful and optimistic tone transformed a seemingly sad, hopeless occasion into a positive, hopeful reminder of the indomitable nature of the human spirit.

Today’s Challenge:  Aristotle, Ads, and Addresses

What are some examples of great speeches or classic advertisements where the speaker or the writer has employed the advantageous for effective persuasion?  Analyze a specific speech or advertisement that is an example of effective persuasion. Use the Aristotelian Triangle to discuss the relationship between the speaker, the audience, and the subject.  How did the speaker specifically relate and appeal to his or her audience to effectively fulfill the purpose? (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Today’s Quotation:  . . . you need to convince your audience that the choice you offer is the most “advantageous” — to the advantage of the audience, that is, not you.  This brings us back to values. The advantageous is an outcome that gives the audience what it values. -Jay Heinrichs

1-http://sabr.org/gamesproj/game/april-30-1939-lou-gehrig-plays-his-final-game-yankees

2-Heinrich, Jay. Thank You For Arguing. Three Rivers Press, 2007.

 

April 18:  Definition Day

On this day in 1864, President Abraham Lincoln gave a speech in Baltimore, Maryland.  In the midst of the Civil War, Maryland, a union state, was considering a new state constitution, which included a provision that would end slavery.  Lincoln, therefore, traveled to Baltimore to express his support for the constitutional change.

Bureau of Engraving and Printing engraved portrait of Lincoln as PresidentIn making his case, Lincoln focused on the idea of liberty and how the word was viewed and defined differently in the North and in the South (1).

The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name—liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names—liberty and tyranny.

After talking about liberty in general terms, Lincoln then shifted to a concrete, showing illustration of his definition of liberty, a definition that was consistent with the changes being considered in Maryland, but which contrasted significantly with the Confederate view of liberty.

The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty, especially as the sheep was a black one. Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails to-day among us human creatures, even in the North, and all professing to love liberty. Hence we behold the processes by which thousands are daily passing from under the yoke of bondage, hailed by some as the advance of liberty, and bewailed by others as the destruction of all liberty. Recently, as it seems, the people of Maryland have been doing something to define liberty; and thanks to them that, in what they have done, the wolf’s dictionary, has been repudiated. (2)

Today’s Challenge:  The Word Became Flesh

What are some examples of abstract nouns — such as liberty, justice, success, or failure — that you could define using concrete examples and definitions?   Brainstorm a number of abstract words.  Then, pick one and write an extended definition of the word that gives more than just a dictionary definition.  Include, like Lincoln did with liberty, some specific, showing imagery as well as some examples that show how the word is defined by different people in different ways. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Today’s Quotation:  Perseverance is a great element of success.  If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1-http://www.lincolncottage.org/the-wolf-and-the-sheep/

2-http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/address-at-a-sanitary-fair/

 

April 4:  Courage to Speak and Write Day

On this day we remember two individuals.  The first is a historical figure who demonstrated great courage by speaking; the second is a fictional character who demonstrated great courage by writing.

On the evening of April 4, 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who was running for the Democratic nomination for president, was preparing to give a campaign speech in Indianapolis.  Just before he was scheduled to speak to the predominately African-American audience, Kennedy learned that Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.

Kennedy was warned by the police that the crown had not yet heard the bad news and that they might become unruly or violent once they heard of King’s death. Despite the danger, Kennedy decided not only to address the audience but also to inform them of the tragedy.  

Kennedy spoke for fewer than five minutes, but what he said in those few minutes will never be forgotten.  He began by immediately delivering the bad news. After pausing for a moment to allow the shocked crowd to gather its wits, Kennedy reminded the audience of King’s efforts to replace violence with understanding and compassion.  He showed empathy for his audience, comparing the anger they were feeling to the anger he felt when his brother was killed by an assassin five years earlier in Dallas. Instead of focusing on the racial divide in the United States, Kennedy instead made an appeal for unity and for justice:

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

Like Martin Luther King, Jr. did before him, Kennedy appealed to hope over despair and to peace over violence:

And let’s dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.

Kennedy did not have to speak on April 4, 1968, and no one would have faulted him for canceling his appearance under the sad circumstances.  Nevertheless, Kennedy seized the moment to courageously present what was much more than just a campaign speech. His brief words transformed a moment of sorrow into a time of rededication to the mission of Martin Luther King, Jr. and to the what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”

Two months later, on June 5, 1968, Kennedy himself was assassinated after winning the California presidential primaries (1).

The second act of courage that took place on this day was in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

In the novel’s opening chapter, the protagonist Winston Smith commits a forbidden act of rebellion, an act that we all take for granted. In the world of the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the simple act that Winston performs could lead to punishment by death or a sentence of twenty-five years of forced labor:

The thing that he was about to do was to open a diary. . . . He dipped the pen into the ink and then faltered for just a second. A tremor had gone through his bowels. To mark the paper was the decisive act. In small clumsy letters he wrote:

April 4th, 1984.

He sat back. A sense of complete helplessness had descended upon him.. . .

Suddenly he began writing in sheer panic, only imperfectly aware of what he was setting down. His small but childish handwriting straggled up and down the page, shedding first its capital letters and finally even its full stops:

April 4th, 1984. Last night to the flicks. All war films. . . .

1984first.jpgIn the dystopian world of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the one-party government of Oceania is in a perpetual state of war and is led by the all-seeing but unseen leader called Big Brother.  By putting his pen to paper, Winston Smith, a party worker, is committing the radical and unlawful act of expressing his own individual thoughts and questioning his government.

Today’s Challenge:   Courageous Call for Communication

What are the reasons we should not take our ability to read, think, speak, and write for granted?  In the years leading up to the American Revolution, John Adams wrote an essay called “A Dissertation on the Canon and the Federal Law” (1765).  In this essay, Adams laid the legal groundwork for the Revolution, challenging his readers to remember the important role that literacy plays as the foundation of human freedoms:

Let us tenderly and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge.  Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.

Write a Public Service Announcement (PSA) that challenges your audience to reconsider and reimagine the importance of literacy — of speaking, writing, thinking, and writing.  Motivate your audience to rededicate themselves to these skills that we so often take for granted. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  Learning to read is probably the most difficult and revolutionary thing that happens to the human brain and if you don’t believe that, watch an illiterate adult try to do it. -John Steinbeck

1-https://www.jfklibrary.org/Research/Research-Aids/Ready-Reference/RFK-Speeches/Statement-on-the-Assassination-of-Martin-Luther-King.aspx