We recently held our sixteenth annual Speech Meet. While the event is a highlight for many, a few students, especially those who dread the spotlight, may wonder why this is imposed upon them each fall. A short answer is that we’re a classical school, and classical schools do things like make students get up in front of people and speak. We think it’s good for them. The Speech Meet, like Bible memory, science presentations, history reports, book club discussions, Latin at Lunchtime, and Reader’s Theater, helps build skills in rhetoric—the art of effective, persuasive, even beautiful, speaking or writing. Skills in rhetoric are something classical schools value. We value growth that comes from hard work. We value the moral imagination.
It takes hard work and perseverance to select a piece, memorize it, and polish it to the point of public presentation. For those of us who have been around for a while, it is a joy to see students grow over the years, some of them from leaning against the classroom whiteboard, fidgeting, mumbling, and forgetting their lines to confidently addressing the entire school and guests with poise and delight.
In early fall, many students (and sometimes their parents) embark on a mini literary adventure, pouring over poems and Scripture and speeches. In the process of making and interpreting their own selection and in listening to fellow student selections, they gain an appreciation for the vast range of expression in the literary landscape. We invite you on this journey and ask you to imagine briefly our students reading, reciting, listening to, and thinking about this year’s speeches.