Public Speaking Today

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Why is Public Speaking Relevant Today?

          The historical influence and background of public speaking is important to know as it gives us a frame of reference to guide our study. The structure and framework of our country constructed by our forefathers created a right and obligation for us to speak freely and openly. Free speech is a luxury many places, countries, and societies do not have. But with our democratic society comes a responsibility to speak for ourselves, for others who may not be able to speak, and to stand up to those who may try to take these freedoms of expression away from us.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

-First Amendment of the United States Constitution

Battling Misinformation and Deception

          In a time when we are being told messages may be fake news or fake information, and when bias information is often promoted at fact, it has become a difficult task to discern for ourselves the reality of truth. The National Communication Association is the governing body of communication educators and professionals. Since 1914, they have produced the credo for ethical communication discourse. The NCA credo provides us with ways we can maintain our objectivity in the face of diverse messages and sources. As communicators, it is vital we learn what the messages are and how they affect us. The acceptance of message validity is a personal decision and can be guided by a set of standards (such as the NCA credo) as a baseline for comprehending messages as they pertain to us.

“Questions of right and wrong arise whenever people communicate. Ethical communication is fundamental to responsible thinking, decision making, and the development of relationships and communities within and across contexts, cultures, channels, and media. Moreover, ethical communication enhances human worth and dignity by fostering truthfulness, fairness, responsibility, personal integrity, and respect for self and others. We believe that unethical communication threatens the quality of all communication and consequently the well-being of individuals and the society in which we live. Therefore we, the members of the National Communication Association, endorse and are committed to practicing the following principles of ethical communication:

  • We advocate truthfulness, accuracy, honesty, and reason as essential to the integrity of communication.

  • We endorse freedom of expression, diversity of perspective, and tolerance of dissent to achieve the informed and responsible decision making fundamental to a civil society.

  • We strive to understand and respect other communicators before evaluating and responding to their messages.

  • We promote access to communication resources and opportunities as necessary to fulfill human potential and contribute to the well-being of families, communities, and society.

  • We promote communication climates of caring and mutual understanding that respect the unique needs and characteristics of individual communicators.

  • We condemn communication that degrades individuals and humanity through distortion, intimidation, coercion, and violence, and through the expression of intolerance and hatred.

  • We are committed to the courageous expression of personal convictions in pursuit of fairness and justice.

  • We advocate sharing information, opinions, and feelings when facing significant choices while also respecting privacy and confidentiality.

  • We accept responsibility for the short- and long-term consequences for our own communication and expect the same of others.”

-National Communication Association

What can we do?

          We must support and protect our democracy and its freedoms by what we say and how we say it. The best way to speak our messages is to be a comfortable, confident communicator through the study and understanding of communication and public speaking.

“Think of history as a giant old jukebox. The many records it contains play the same music over and over, time after time, year after year, no matter where you take it. From Rome to Constantinople; to greater Europe, to America, the songs are the same. The knowledge of history can be used by the people to prevent the mistakes of the past and in due course, advance the human condition.”

-Daniel Rundquist

          Some universities and academic institutions require a course on Public Speaking as one of their general education requirements. Others don’t require it but may heavily recommend students take it. Yet others may not have public speaking in their curriculum at all. The skills learned in public speaking classes are important to your success in the workplace, in your career, and in life; they go far beyond just the knowledge on giving speeches. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), “verbal communication is the most important candidate skill.” This corresponds to the need for good speaking and critical thinking skills. The job market, whether upper management, middle management, or entry level, needs employees who can convey their messages accurately, succinctly, and clearly. One of the many qualities separating you from those who have not taken a public speaking course is the fact you possess the ability to clearly create and articulate a message, to convey that message in a manner understood by others. Public speaking skills are tantamount for strong personal growth. As you take college courses, you are taking them to learn more about yourself, our world, and your relationship to that world. The skills you learn in public speaking courses can set you apart from others who may be applying for similar positions, jobs, and organizations.

Review Questions

1) Why is public speaking relevant today?

2) What skills will you learn in a public speaking class? Why is it important to learn these skills?

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