“His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy…” – Eminem
Public speaking is an art not only in rhetoric but in courage and confidence. It is a battle against the butterflies in the stomach and the self-doubt circling the brain. The hands start to shake, the knee bounces up and down as if thumping to the beat of a marching band in the distance. As you take a deep breath and look out on those gathered, the only thing standing between success and failure is your preparation. It comes down to how many minutes you spent reciting the speech sitting at your desk, how many times you stood in front of the mirror and performed to yourself, and how many times you corrected a fumble in a word or sentence that you finally pronounced correctly. Therefore, public speaking is as much a trainable skill as it is an art in expression. And here at school, we should be teaching this skill much more, for it will undoubtedly help us in every aspect of our future professional and personal lives.
Though we do have the Poetry Fest every year, the school curriculum lacks the dynamism to flirt with the spontaneity associated with public speaking. In the heat of reading textbooks and writing papers, very little time is afforded to composing our own work and reciting it to an audience. While the Poetry Fest is a great vehicle for performance, there must be another outlet for the self-expression of sharing our own writing to a class. There is something exhilarating and refreshing in sharing your life’s journey through a speech written with thought as to how an audience would react. Some speeches are humorous by nature, some speeches are humorous by the tenor of delivery, and this subtle nuance can only be discovered through the trial and error of repetition. Ergo, I urge the school community to institute a ‘Woodbury Fest’ wherein all students compose and deliver a speech about any topic they choose. By experiencing pre-speech nerves, mid-speech execution, and post-speech ‘speaker’s high’, students will step beyond their comfort zones and create a strong foundation of public speaking upon which they can build in the future.
Looking back on my time here at Belmont Hill, my defining moments center around the bouts of public speaking that shook me to my core but helped me prove to myself that I can achieve almost anything with confidence, preparation, and passion. We must train each student so that when they shakily meander to their next podium, they will take a deep breath and give the speech of their life.