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1924_The Art of Public Speaking

George Horace Lorimer EDITOR Churchill Williams, F. S. Bigelow, A.W. Neall, Thomas B.Costain. Thomas L.Masson, Associate Editors Entered as Second-Class Matter, November 18.1879. at the Post Office at Philadelphia. Under the Act of March 3,1579. Additional Entry at Columbus. O., St. Louis, Mo.. Chicago. Ill.. Indianapolis. Ind., Saginaw. Mich.. Des Moines, Ia.. Portland. Ore.. Milwauhee. Wis.. and St. Paul. Minn. Entered as Second-Class Mutter at the Post-Office Department, One wa. Canada THE SCITUR.DAY EVENING POST Founded A9lY 1728 by Benj. Franklin Copyright. 1924. by The Curtis Publishing Company in the United States and Great Britain Title Registered id U. S. Patent Office and in Foreign Countries Lillrao.Evg. Q11. 1653e7a7z7clge T83 ILLUSTRATED BY M. L. BLUMENTHAL Published Weeltly The Curtis Publishing Company Cyrus H. It. Curtis, President C. IL Ludington. Vice-President and Treattur.1 P. S. Collins, General business Manager Walter D. Fuller, Secretary William Boyd. Advertising Director Independence Square,Philaclelphia London, e,, lenrietts Street Covent Garden. W. C. Volume 196 • 5c, THE COPY PHILADELPHIA, PA., APRIL 26, 1924 $2.0n THE YEAR by Subscription Number 43 YHE THE first political speech I ever heard was typical of the oratory upon which most of us were brought up. Also it showed that, if he had lived, Abraham Lincoln might, perhaps, have been overthrown by the postwar politicians; for Lincoln's supreme idea was the reconstruction of the South on the basis of brotherhood and good will—genuine reunion— whereas the rally-round-the-flag politicians wanted the South treated as a conquered province—genuine disunion. So the words for which, above all others, the American people and the world now love and revere Lincoln, "with malice toward none, with charity for all, . . . let us . . . bind up the nation's wounds" — not only the wounds of the North, the East, the West, but the wounds of the whole nation—did not fit the plans of those who, for political purposes, wished to keep the war going long after it was over. Therefore they fanned the embers of hatred. They kept old war passions alive and even incubated new ones. Thus came a recrudescence of that emotional speech making which in America was one aftereffect of the French Revolution—speech making which violates every principle of oratory, and which has done much to destroy that noble art in the United States. The only Republicans in the county where we lived in my childhood were Union soldiers, among the most ardent of whom were my father and brothers; and when we had a political rally all of them came to the county seat, a little country town whose dirt streets were axle-deep with mud or ankle-deep with dust. On the edge of the village—for it was no more—was a grove of oak and walnut trees, where we Republicans held our meetings: The Democrats held theirs a mile away on the other side of the county seat in a wood made up mostly of hickory trees. The Era of Animosities ITN THE early '70's, when I was a very small boy, there was a Republican gathering in our Republican grove. The speaker was a well-known politician of the period and a typical postwar stump speaker, who grew more furious at "the rebels" as the war receded in time. Long, thick, inky black hair flowed over his collar, and immense black mustaches added to his formidable and ferocious appearance. The August sun made the surrounding prairies shimmer with heat, and even in the shade of the trees men mopped their brows, women fanned crying babies, and all were as uncomfortable as they were enthusiastic. I sat between my parents on the front plank, which at either end and in the middle rested on logs. The speaker, escorted It Was a Great Speech, Everybody Said by the committee, mounted the flag-draped platform, was introduced, threw off his coat and vest, tore his collar and tie from his neck, replaced them with a red bandanna handkerchief which made him look more militant than ever, ran his fingers through his mane and began. "Comrades! And you, the mothers, wives and sweethearts of my comrades! Who murdered our comrades? Rebels! Democrats! Tremendous cheering. A voice: " Give'm hell, John." More cheering. Who tried to shoot the Stars and Stripes from the heavens? Rebels! Democrats!" So the orator in a crimson torrent raged on, waving the flag, pounding the table, gesticulating wildly, shaking his head like an infuriated bull and working himself up to boiling heat, physically as well as emotionally. At last came a picturesque and blood-curdling climax. It was a great speech, everybody said, and so the little barefoot boy believed it to be. After singing Marching Through Georgia, the farmers and their families got into their big wagons, some with fifers and drummers from out townships, and started homeward, hurrahing for our candidates. All were as happy as they were patriotic. The very next week, under the protection of a Democratic farmer who lived near us, I went to a Democratic meeting in the hickory grove. We took our politics seriously and none of my family would attend; but I wanted so badly to hear the Democratic speech that my parents finally consented, although with reluctance and misgiving. Keeping Old Sores Open AS TO violent delivery, exaggerated state- ment and lack of argument, the Democratic speech was almost identical with the Republican speech I had heard a few days earlier—all was denunciation, only the thesis was reversed. We Republicans, it seemed, were rascals, scoundrels and ought to be in jail, every last one of us. Again the acrobatic rage of the speaker, again the shedding of garments, again the lurid adjectives, again the senseless cheering, again the shouted encouragement from excited partisans to give'm hell, again the general acclaim that it was a great speech, again the small boy's acceptance that it was a great speech. I was angered and mystified. How could we Republicans be such a bad lot? And, besides, had not our Republican speaker called these Democrats "rebels"? It did not connect up, but, still, I was hot for my clan. However, it was a great speech; there could be no doubt about that outstanding fact. So was the verbal and emotional tempest I had heard the week before, a great speech. The greatness of these two speeches was the one thing everybody agreed to. The partisans of neither side repeated any arguments of either speaker—there were none to repeat—but there was ardent rivalry as to which speech was the greater. The word "great" was worked by everybody until the sweat of exhaustion poured from every letter of it. Such were the performances that, for several decades after the Civil War, were called oratory. Even today we sometimes hear the same kind of public speaking, especially during political campaigns—the same furious delivery, the same extreme misstatement, the same unfairness, the same animosity, the same ignoring of fact and reason. But it is now fast disappearing, and it is to assist, however feebly, the restoration of the art of public speaking that I write these lines. At this point it may, perhaps, be helpful to make mention of the circumstances which began to open my eyes, albeit dimly at first, to the errors of the oratory described. When I went to college oratorical contests were in vogue. I needed the money and simply had to take the prizes; it was a matter of necessity rather than of ambition. I looked with freshman awe upon the college orators of the upper classes, but their methods seemed 3


1924_The Art of Public Speaking
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