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The picture of a slow, timid speaker giving the impression that he really does not feel what he says, or that he is too indolent, or physically too feeble to enforce his ideas, shows by contrast the importance of earnestness in Public Speaking. From such a speaker the hearer turns listlessly away. The listener demands such an alertness and energy in the delivery, such a quickening of all the agents of expression, as is indicative of vigorous mental and emotional activity. A logical appreciation of the idea is insufficient. The speaker must realize the idea emotionally. The listener demands also that the speaker mean what he says, that he be morally in earnest, and speak out of conviction. How fatal to have it said, “ He is speaking for effect;" or to charge that his utterance is that of a mere partisan! It is still worse to say that his is the voice of a hireling. The true speaker comes “ that they might have life.”
I suppose it is this that has led writers upon oratory, from the time of Quintilian to the present, to insist that oratory is essentially moral, and that “only the good man can be a perfect orator."
Oratory involves the processes of convincing and persuading. But how can the speaker convince another when he is not himself stirred by conviction? or how can he persuade in that to which he gives only half-hearted allegiance ?
By earnestness, then, something more is meant than energetic vocalization and forceful gesture. Earnestness is sincerity all aglow. Its roots are moral. A speech is a kind of personality. Certainly it is expressive of personality; hence
the necessity of right motive and legitimate method. This is the earnestness described by Webster as The clear conception outrunning the deductions of logic, the high purpose, the firm resolve, the dauntless spirit, speaking on the tongue, beaming from the eye, informing every feature, and urging the whole man onward, right onward to his subject.”
To give direction how to secure this compelling earnestness belongs to the teacher of ethics and of religion. One or two aspects of the subject may be profitably considered.
The speaker must be thoroughly in liking with the work of his profession or calling. The feeling of inadaptability is fatal to success. A genuine interest is indispensable. Who would prefer the statesman, the lawyer, or the preacher whose heart is not in his work? The advocate may feel in earnest in behalf of his client because his reputation is at stake, the politician may be spurred by the desire for advancement, and the preacher show an earnestness because his success and fame are being weighed in the balance; but the fire of their earnestness is uncertain and feeble beside that which grows out of a peculiar liking and adaptability to the work of the chosen profession. He who would promote the social, political, and religious interests of the world by means of speaking must be thoroughly imbued with these interests.
2. Again, the speaker must have, not only this general interest in the work, but must feel the importance of the special subject and occasion. The purpose of the speech must be clearly defined and fully indorsed. In order to do this it will frequently be found desirable and even necessary to link the special occasion to some larger interest. The case of petty larceny must be discouraging to the advocate except as he relates the case to justice. If the preacher is to show a real interest in speaking to the small audience and to degraded men, he frequently must realize the importance of the individual, and think of what they are capable of becoming
3. All who are disciplining themselves in speaking should guard against the tendency to trust too much to the inspiration of the audience. The influence of the audience in stimulating mental and physical earnestness cannot be denied; but it does not wholly compensate for the lack of stimulus that should come from the subject.
4. In practising for skill, the student frequently finds himself unable to enter into the spirit of the subject composed by another. Indeed, he frequently finds himself incapable of delivering with effective earnestness his own composition before a teacher or to a class. He compares this with the greater sense of freedom and efficiency in addressing a real audience for other than disciplinary purposes. But this sense of freedom, or having a "good time,” frequently accompanies extravagances, and generally means simply letting bad habits have free course. It is always easy to speak according to habit, whether the habit be good or bad. It is the observation of the author and of others, that the faults that show themselves in the class-room are the ones that are prominent in delivery elsewhere. That the student should feel his restraint under drill is not surprising. Under such circumstances, the voice and gesture are likely to occupy a large part of the field of consciousness; the speaker is self conscious, and in some cases the sense of the incongruous is overmastering. A thorough control, however, overcomes the difficulties of the situation, and enables the speaker to use the thoughts of others with spontaneous earnestness.
As to the incongruous, it, in fact, does not exist. Just as the writer composes for an imaginary audience, so the solitary speaker addresses an imaginary audience; but there is nothing incongruous in either case. The class or the teacher may be regarded as the audience ; or in their presence the speaker may still have an imaginary audience beyond them.
According to the author's observation, a person with the gift of speaking, or who has long disciplined himself in delivery, is little disturbed by the drill-room atmosphere.
The ability to enter heartily into the delivery of another's speech depends on dramatic power. This power is always a valuable source of earnestness. Proper discipline calls up the latent dramatic faculty, and enables the student to throw himself heartily into the delivery of another's composition. It does not postpone earnestness for the audience and the live occasion ; that which is written by another becomes the speaker's own. Every room is imaginatively peopled, and every occasion is made a live one.
The importance of physical vitality as a source of the essentials of Public Speaking, is seen, first of all, from the nature of the subject. Speaking is a physical as well as a mental act. Strong and erect carriage and free movements, the ability to endure the strains of thoroughly alive speaking, are possible in the most effective degree only in connection with large vitality. Proper breathing and vocal control are secured through the same source ; so also is life and the feeling of power. Proper nerve-functioning, so essential to successful speaking, and other features of control, are favorably conditioned by vitality. Reserved force, “grasp of the audience," - in short, those various elements, the sum of which is sometimes vaguely called magnetism, reside largely in the same source.
Again, it is observed that distinguished speakers, in general, have been men of more than ordinary vitality. Even size seems to have its advantage. In the estimation of many, Henry Ward Beecher represents the highest in American pulpit oratory. Dr. Bartol, in a sermon on the death of Mr. Beecher, said that “an examiner of his bumps and body pronounced him a splendid animal." No one can doubt that this splendid physical power made possible his splendid oratory. This unusual physical endowment is matched by that of America's greatest political orator. Carlyle said of Webster, “He looks like a walking cathedral."
Every student of the subject should develop his physical powers to the limit of his ability. Some who enter upon a