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SPEECHES OF FAREWELL.
7 SPEECH TO 166th OHIO REGIMENT.. ABRAHAM LINCOLN, 245
79 LAST SPEECH, AT CHARLESTOWN, WEST VA., JOHN BROWN, 247
ADDRESSES FOR ACADEMIC OCCASIONS.
THE LEADERSHIP OF EDUCATED MEN
ADDRESS AT A MEETING IN BEHALF OF THE CHILDREN'S AID
TO THE YOUNG MEN OF ITALY
ON REPEAL OF THE UNION
ADDRESS AT THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION
(AN OPEN LETTER TO TEACHERS.)
THE very conditions of American life require that our educated youth shall be able to expound with clearness their business, financial, political, or even moral ideas or ideals. In nine cases out of ten, too, they will not merely print what they have to say, but first say it and then, perhaps, print it. Where, as compared with the numerous college courses in debating, oratory, or literary style, are the college courses in such public exposition? There are some courses, it is true, especially in technical schools, which train their students to expound clearly a plan in engineering or some scientific discovery, but the courses in non-scientific and nonliterary exposition are almost confined to debating and socalled oratory. But even in these, study of public discussion. is too often not, as it should be, an end in itself, but merely a means to the end-winning a victory in an intercollegiate contest. It is, indeed, inevitable that as long as the present vogue of intercollegiate debating persists, college courses in debate cannot be wholly for training in discussion for the sake of determining the truth about mooted questions, but must conform somewhat to the arbitrary rules of committees which have made of intercollegiate debating a kind of intellectual sport. Similarly, interstate committees have laid down rules to govern the contests in oratory. The efficiency of such courses in debating or in oratory, the undergraduate judges does not the graduate too?—by the number of successful contestants it produces.
Now, there is no denying that intercollegiate debating has been of very great assistance to those of us who are interested in teaching undergraduates to present their ideas orally to the general public with clearness and force, to those of us who are interested in the forms of public discourse, for intercollegiate debating offers just that idea of tussle, wrestle and fight which appeals to a youth's imagination. At first it is, more than anything else, the fight, the spirit of contest, the desire to show one's supremacy over someone else which inLater, students come to appreciate that to fight with success intellectually is possible only through knowledge of certain principles and the intelligent application of those principles under varying conditions. Recognition of these ideas sends them to a course in debating enthusiastic for the work; or, if they have already begun systematic study of debating, when these ideas come to them through some interclass or intercollegiate debate, the recognition quickens them to strenuous, persistent endeavor.
But the widespread interest in intercollegiate debating and proper gratitude for what it has done to stimulate a study of the different forms of public discourse, have led undergraduates, graduates, and even teachers, I think, greatly to misemphasize its importance. After all, intercollegiate debating does not mean every kind of discussion, nor even every kind of debating; it signifies a special kind of debating, guided by rules as definite as those of football, and determined in the same way by conference of the powers. It is becoming more and more a highly developed special form of debate — an intellectual sport. Because of the excitement of the contest, the prospective delight of a definite victory, the acclaim that greets the victors from undergraduates, graduates, and pictorial newspapers, and, worthiest reason of all, because the intercollegiate debate gives some students who love their alma mater their only opportunity to work publicly to increase
her honors, there seems to be a real danger that intercollegiate debating may become in many colleges the only form of public discourse seriously studied. Is not such an interest
as this disproportionate, unsound, and unwise?
I have read many compositions submitted in oratorical contests. Only rarely have they even a spark of individuality, of freshness, of simple strength. Instead, they are conventional, artificial, empty, cheap. Clearly the contestants have studied files of "orations" successful in the past, and as closely as possible, copied them. Begin with platitudes, no matter how remote from the subject; continue either with sentences which, crackling like a fusillade of musketry, might have come from any biographical dictionary, or with sentences of no more originality, but heavy with gew-gaws of speech; indulge in closing fireworks, and there you are! What can that kind of writing do but harm? Intelligent audiences may considerately put up with this from callow youth, but what if callow youth try this kind of speaking on the same people when it wishes to push them, not whither they are willingly and rapidly moving, but whither they do not wish to go? Then will come a sharp awakening! Grant that the state representatives selected for the final contest may have more than I think to say and may say it better, yet the conditions of these contests are not like any the speakers will meet after graduation. Then audiences will listen to them primarily for what they have to say on their subjects, not, as here, primarily for the way in which they speak. Grant, too, that debate may be taught without regard for the rules of intercollegiate debate, yet it is but a sub-division of a subdivision (oral discussion) of a large field for study (public address1). Surely other teachers must have had my experience,
1 I shall use this term hereafter as meaning not only all work written for delivery, but also all writing at the public not literary or scientific in aim, for instance letters to the press or editorials,