Sunday, April 6, 2014

4.6.14 - Social and Ceremonial Context

This American Life
  • “ I think if you were just walking by a stranger's tombstone and saw their name chiseled there on the rock, you'd never get this feeling.” -Ira Glass
    • Why do movies and pictures evoke more emotion than words?
      • Breaking with tradition, getting away from stuffy conventions that take us further away from celebrating who a person was
        • “The traditional funeral wasn’t powerful enough to contain peoples’ feelings”
      • There are certain elements of a person - or even of life - that cannot be captured by words
      • Your job as a tribute speaker is to capture the essence of the subject through - and between - words. Things like tone, facial expressions, pauses, body language, can bring words further towards capturing that essence.
      • In some ways, Ira Glass and This American Life are in the same situation as you: they are a radio program, they can only rely on words and sound effects to convey a series of very complex stories. What are the ways that Ira Glass infuses life into his stories?
  • Lives are made up of moments and stories. We need to evoke that level of detail
  • Ira’s story shows us that it’s hard to make someone come alive using a formula, you have to look at that person’s life

Analyzing Speech Contexts
  • Public Sphere - Private Sphere
  • Formal v. Informal
    • This is dictated both by the setting and by the style of the speaker.
  • Monologic v. Dialogic
    • The role of the audience is conventionally passive; breaking with these conventions is an excellent way to gain your audience’s attention and make an authentic connection
    • Bobby McFerrin’s use of the audience as an intrinsic instrument in his speech created a memorable experience: 

  • Power Dynamics
  • Existing v. One-Time Community
    • Our class is in a privileged position to be able to meet and rely on a consistent community throughout the quarter. Take advantage of it.
  • Immediate audience v. Extended audience
    • With the ever-expanding public sphere of digital media, it is generally wise to anticipate exposure to an extended audience (i.e. YouTube, user video posts, etc.)
    • Mitt Romney and the “47 Percent” incident

Social and Ceremonial Context
  • President Obama’s Eulogy for Nelson Mandela
    • It is hard to eulogize any man - to capture in words not just the facts and the dates that make a life, but the essential truth of a person - their private joys and sorrows; the quiet moments and unique qualities that illuminate someone's soul.”
    • One thing before we listen - Madiba = Mandela’s tribal name
    • Group Exercise - we will break into 7 groups. Each group will be assigned one element of Obama’s speech to look for and write down
  1. What are some instances where Obama strategically uses silences in ways that are as powerful as words if not more? Why is they effective?
  2. How does Obama use considerations of his audience’s identities (ranging from South Africans to tribes to ethnicities) to connect during his speech? Why is this effective?
  3. How does he make Mandela’s life come alive? How does he distinguish Mandela the public figure from Mandela the man?
  4. The reactions of the audience - what are they reacting to? Why?
  5. How does he call on a higher elevating wisdom/lesson from Mandela’s life? What are these lessons?
  6. How does Obama call on his own identity (as a person and as a political figure) in his speech? Why is it effective?
  7. How does Obama use emotion in his speech and voice? What emotions is he trying to convey and why is it effective?

Motivational Appeals
  • The difference between emotionally motivating and manipulating:
    • Motivating
      • When the emotion is sincerely shared between the speaker and the audience
      • When there is a balance between emotional and logical appeal
      • When moral issues are taken up that are centrally relevant to the argument of the speech
    • Manipulating
      • When the speaker “tacks on” an emotional veil to hook his/her audience
      • When the audience can perceive that a speaker is playing on it’s emotions
      • When a moral issue is illustrated as a means of “tokenism” - a superficial gesture meant only to gain the allegiance of certain groups and identities.

Crafting Your Speech
  • Modes of Delivery
  • Extemporaneous - use of outline
  • Impromptu - draft first and last sentences
  • Manuscript/Scripted Speeches - less room for error
  • Memorized - most prep, but least amount of stress during the speech
  • You can blend these styles - for example if one particular sentence only works if worded in a very specific way, you and script the one sentence and include it in the outline.
  • Written versus oral - this is why it is important to practice. Written style sometimes doesn’t feel right when spoken aloud.
  • Please consult Part 7 when constructing your speech for next week - it gives a great comprehensive look at effective language devices.

Intro to Speech Ethics
  • Listening and Ethics
    • No decision a speaker makes is politically or morally neutral. When you speak, you are by default editing by choosing what to say and what not to say; you are therefore issuing value and importance to various topics.
    • Be aware of your own personal/cultural/political biases. We all have frameworks that we use to make sense of the world.
  • Determine your intentions: are your intentions to teach, or to learn?
  • Determine your vantage point: where does your cultural perspective differ from the perspective you are performing?
  • Be open to criticism
  • Predict what, if any, outcomes may be harmful, or perceived as harmful by members of the cultural perspective you are presenting

Group Exercise
  • Groups of 2-3
  • Please discuss:
    • Potential topics for next week’s speech
    • What modes of delivery work best for you, your topic and this assignment
    • One element of President Obama’s speech that you would like to consider using in your speech


  1. The three ideas I have for the tribute speech all center around the idea of a funeral. Then I would give a eulogy about the specific person I am talking about. The three ideas I have are as follows:
    1. eulogy for Walter Payton
    2. Eulogy for Martin Luthur King
    3. Eulogy for myself
    The element I would like to use from Obama's eulogy would be the way he is able to bring the speech from Nelson to himself and how he can change the world like Nelson did. I want to put that kind of technique into my speech because I feel that it makes the audience really think about the conversation at hand. The other element I would like to have is the intro because it perfectly described what everybody wanted to say about Nelson. The intro he had really got the audience invested into the speech because everybody that attended the speech could feel the emotion Obama had.

  2. I have already decided on an idea which would be a eulogy for a good friend of mine, Andrew Monroe, that passed away a few years ago. To do this, I will use a few different techniques that Obama used in his speech including pauses, references to myself and the "we/us"and by humanizing him from his legacy to the day to day person he was. Additionally, I will use the same technique (or at least try to) when he has everything typed up and scripted but is able to speak without reading from it the entire time. I think these different things will allow me to portray the essence of Andrew while still keeping it realistic, I hope that with the pauses and also having scripted the speech beforehand that I will be able to get all my thoughts across with the emotion that is intended.