Chapter 1 - Section 8

Reason #5: Public Speaking Isn’t Only About Speaking

     Too often, public speaking is only seen as helping people become better speakers. While speaking is an essential aspect of public speaking (and it’s usually the part we focus on because it’s the speaking in public part that we spend so much time worrying about), it is not the only skill you will gain after reading this book.

     Taking a class in public speaking will help you become a more discerning audience member because you will develop a new language to assess the content of a speaker’s messages and appeals, as well as the quality of their presentation. Consider the learning tool that your fellow classmates become for you. Public speaking can teach us both how to make arguments and how better to judge other people’s arguments. While we rarely get nervous when listening and critiquing other people’s messages (like we do when speaking in public), learning how to be better judges of other people’s arguments is an invaluable skill.

     In his 2009 Notre Dame address President Obama asked graduates to be forward thinking, critical consumers, and users of facts. He stated:

Now, you, Class of 2009, are about to enter the next phase of your life at a time of great uncertainty. You'll be called to help restore a free market that's also fair to all who are willing to work. You'll be called to seek new sources of energy that can save our planet; to give future generations the same chance that you had to receive an extraordinary education. And whether as a person drawn to public service, or simply someone who insists on being an active citizen, you will be exposed to more opinions and ideas broadcast through more means of communication than ever existed before. You'll hear talking heads scream on cable, and you'll read blogs that claim definitive knowledge, and you will watch politicians pretend they know what they're talking about. Occasionally, you may have the great fortune of actually seeing important issues debated by people who do know what they're talking about – by well-intentioned people with brilliant minds and mastery of the facts. In fact, I suspect that some of you will be among those brightest stars.

President Obama: Notre Dame Commencement

While the rest of President Obama’s speech regarded both the need to maintain civility in the ongoing abortion debate and the need to find common ground, this moment in the speech is particularly enlightening because the President calls on graduates to recognize the appropriate usage of facts and encourages students to achieve such “mastery” in public discourse as well. Learning about public speaking will not only help you become a better speaker, it will also help improve your decision making abilities in discerning between truth and fiction, right and wrong, and good and bad.

Section 7   Section 9