The power of a single voice can make all the difference.
Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Nelson Mandela. Look at what these public figures accomplished by having the confidence and skillset to speak in front of an audience. They owned the listeners each and every time they stood and spoke.
The power of free speech may never be needed more than it is today. Based on the current attacks of the first amendment by limiting, censoring and criticizing the media, the need for evidence based argumentation is growing more and more important.
There is a new necessity on protecting, encouraging and respecting the freedom of expression. Especially in our youth who are growing up in this world that surrounds us.
A well-known poem by Martin Niemöller, an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler, rang true in the 1950s when it first began circulating, and it rings true today.
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
And so, the need for debate and civic engagement by communities, parents, schools and students is crucial. While the act of speaking your mind can be something instilled through growth, giving youth the tools to express themselves is so vital.
Dr. Nick Morgan is a public speaking expert and author from Boston, MA. He has spoken, led conferences, and moderated panels at venues around the world. He founded Public Words, a communications consulting company, in 1997 after earning his PhD in literature and rhetoric. He has spent time teaching Public Speaking at the University of Virginia, Lehigh University and Princeton University.
“Giving youth the tools to speak up and say something when needed is incredibly important. The good news is that the world is more receptive now than it ever has been to all kinds of voices, from all sorts of people, including young and old. So youth need to be ready when their moment comes,” said Morgan.
In today’s world, you can use the Internet and social media to stand for something you believe in, fight against someone, or even rally around a citizen in need. When used correctly, such platforms as Facebook have their place, but to stand and speak in front of a group of your peers remains unchallenged in its power to this day.
Morgan tends to agree.
“We live in a hybrid world, half real and half virtual. More and more of our interactions are online. Given that changing landscape, when you do get a chance to make an impression face to face, it's more important than ever. Being able to give a successful speech is a critical skill in our brave new hybrid world.”
Even further, Sara Livio of Global Young Voices Europe also feels strongly about the balancing of social media usage and learning to converse in front of your peers.
“Communicating through these new means, young people don’t have the opportunity to get used to communicate in an effective way in front of other people, to understand their audience and to overcome the anxiety of speaking in front of a crowd.”
Livio, who has taken university courses on public speaking in English and Russian, notices how evaluated public speaking is within, not only the academic and communication field, but also in the business and economic area. She says a good speech is often the first step to be taken into account.
“I have learned that logical coherency of the speaker’s case, backed by evidence, is crucial to speak effectively while a high level of knowledge about the spoken matter is what creates trust in what the speaker says.”
Debating is a perfect blend of research and speech.
So, before we tell our youth to “stand up, say something” about the state of this changing world. Before it is too late for words. Before we are old and in need of new leaders. Teachers, parents, peers, politicians need to give our young people the knowledge and skillset. To pry them away from an iPad, iPhone, fidget spinner or whatever the latest trend is.
Let’s speak up about our youth speaking up.
How can you help?