Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review of The Art of Public Speaking: Lessons from the Greatest Speeches in History

The Art of Public Speaking: Lessons from the Greatest Speeches in History is a series of twelve half-hour lectures by Professor John R. Hale (Director of Liberal Studies at the University of Louisville) It is packaged as a set of two DVDs with a 45 page booklet.

Dr. Hale is an archaeologist, not a communications professor. Among other things he’s written a Scientific American magazine article on viking longships, and a book, Lords of the Sea: The Epic Story of the Athenian Navy and the Birth of Democracy.

Titles for those dozen lectures are:

1. Overcome Obstacles - Demosthenes of Athens
2. Practice Your Delivery - Patrick Henry
3. Be Yourself - Elizabeth I to Her Army
4. Find Your Humorous Voice - Will Rogers
5. Make It a Story - Marie Curie on Radium
6. Use the Power of Threes - Paul to His People
7. Build a Logical Case - Susan B. Anthony
8. Paint Pictures in Words - Tecumseh on Unity
9. Focus on Your Audience - Gandhi on Trial
10. Share a Vision - Martin Luther King’s Dream
11. Change Minds and Hearts - Mark Antony
12. Call for Positive Action - Lincoln at Gettysburg

In Lecture 5, Make It a Story, Dr. Hale wisely comments:

“Now, I’ve always felt that something that is relegated to a minor part of most textbooks on public speaking and rhetoric is the most important thing: storytelling.”

His main subject is Marie Curie’s 1921 speech at the Vassar College graduation. (Marie shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics with her husband Pierre and Henri Becquerel, and then also won the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry). Dr. Hale includes her statement that:

“When radium was discovered, no one knew that it would prove useful in hospitals. The work was one of pure science, which must be done for itself, for the beauty of science.”

In Lecture 5 he also discusses two other stories in some detail. One is the story of how Odysseus returned to Ithaca disguised as a beggar (from Homer’s Odyssey). The other is the Parable of the Good Samaritan (from the Book of Luke in the New Testament).  

The set is sold as item #2031 from The Great Courses series. It has a list price of $199.95, but currently it is being sold at Amazon for $40 to $100. I enjoyed watching these lectures. I borrowed them for free from the Boise Public Library. If I’d have paid $50 instead, I would not have been disappointed.

The painting of Demosthenes of Athens practicing his oratory is from Wikimedia Commons.

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