The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
SMU professor to return to campus after being trapped in Gaza for 12 years
Sara Hummadi, Video Editor • May 18, 2024
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Public speaking not as crucial as it once was

Speaker Mark Oppenheimer spoke to students, faculty and Dallas residents last night on his views on the importance of oration in today’s blog-saturated society.

The Gilbert Lecture Series welcomed the young Yale graduate and author of two books, “Knocking on Heaven’s Door: American Religion in the Age of Counterculture” and “Thirteen and a Day: The Bar and Bat Mitzvah Across America,” with a guacamole- and quesadilla-filled reception in the DeGolyer Library.

Once his many awards and credentials were presented to the packed room, Oppenheimer walked to the podium and grabbed the audience’s attention with his natural power of speech.

He argued that in today’s society, public speaking has taken a backseat to other forums of expression. While at one time politicians and other wealthy, well-educated citizens alone held the power influencing the masses through public speech, today everyone has the ability to present their opinions through social networking sites, blogs or YouTube.

“Today the notion that only a few can sound intelligent is absurd,” Oppenheimer said.

He believes that as citizens acquire the means to present their thoughts, the abilities of traditional public speakers have reached a low point. Politicians and preachers no longer have the high standards they once did.

Televangelists spout out speeches with feel-good literature in their Southern twangs with no intent of sparking ideas in the minds of listeners. Politicians change oratory styles depending on the latest news poll. Their speeches are no longer meant to unify an entire country, but rather to earn votes from individual states.

“The greatest leaders this country has seen have all been good public speakers,” Oppenheimer said.

Oration is one of the most democratic practices there is, Oppenheimer said. Great speeches are filled with ideas. Without good ideas, there is no point to a speech. A greater interest in public speaking enhances society as a whole, and the ability is not limited to a few.

The classic Greek orators believed that speech was an art that could be taught, and Oppenheimer agrees. He believes that high schools and universities should have public speaking as part of the general requirement to graduate.

“Bad public speaking makes us crude thinkers,” he said.

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