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Armchair Ponderings
Public speaking, a lost art!

Guy Geller

Donuts on Cake

I never cease to be amazed by the lack of preparedness of public speakers in today’s times. Starting with the president of the United States reading his speeches; whether they are written for him by a room-full of speechwriters or on occasion he speaks “off the cuff” it is still sad. The latest example of read speeches was Friday’s introduction of the new Director of Athletics at Mississippi State University, watching him, it appeared that he read every word.

Then there is the over use of fillers: um, you know, so, like and the most popular uh. I listened to a congressman last week and just for kicks timed him for two minutes and counted twenty-seven uhs. Generally, fillers are substitutes for original thought. Occasionally words such as however and in addition can be mistaken for fillers, but they do serve a purpose.

The secret to presenting a speech is knowing the topic thoroughly. Whether or not you liked President Donald Trump, he was a very good off-the-cuff speaker, he didn’t need a prepared speech to talk to the Press on the way to his helicopter.

Back in the olden days, a statement that my children used to dislike; we had a class entitled, public speaking, to teach us that art. We had to write, prepare speeches, practice them in front of a mirror and occasionally in front of a small family audience, then present them to a class that was charged with grading the presentation.

I was sent to a senior executive management course for six weeks, in Chicago in the mid-seventies. The first day was an exercise in public speaking in front of a class of eleven of my peers. My assignment went like this; “Mr. Geller, please talk to us about your thumb, you have six minutes and you will be televised.” What a thrilling topic for an extemporaneous speech! It started with, “My thumb and I have been friends for a long time.” I won’t bore you with the rest but it ended with, “You see this scar on this thumb, it came from Jay Donsky’s front tooth, in the barracks of Sampson Air Force Base in 1954.”That ended with a round of applause from the class. Each member of the class was assigned a different, also “important” topic to give us six minutes of extemporaneous speaking. With various degrees of success!

Only once in Atlanta; I was given a tele-prompter for a lengthy somewhat technical presentation. It was like watching a tennis match, right then left, then right. Never used one again. I just had to be sure to know my topic.

If I sound a bit critical, it’s because I am! Times have changed so much that a cashier in a restaurant needs a calculator to make change for a twenty and a ten-dollar bill when the charge was $25.62. That was just last week, and one of many examples.

My pointing out these shortcomings isn’t going to make one bit of difference. We are on such a downward spiral that a change in political party won’t make a whit of difference. I may even be asked to define a whit, so I’ll get ahead, it’s an old term, like an iota or a smallest particle.

I won’t even touch President Biden’s mysterious secret documents that are cropping up in different locations and the irony of the handling by the press versus President Trump’s fiasco being raided by the FBI.

It’s early in the new year and Jackson, the capital of Mississippi led the Nation in per-capita murders, last year. What’s going to happen this year?

Donuts on Cake
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