On making a speech you can believe in

One of my students asked me the other day, "Do you know any good topics for debates?" Her homework was to write a short (1-2 minute) speech on a topic that people could debate. (The class wouldn't actively debate each topic, but the assignment was supposed to test the students' understanding of what topics will bring out lively debate.)

The advice I gave was, "You should make the speech about something you believe in." For two reasons, a speech should always be about something the speaker believes in, and the more passionate the belief, the better. Audiences can tell if a speaker is just reciting. Sometimes speakers have to debate the opposite side of their own position, but this should only be done as an exercise, not as a habit.

So we tried to come up with something she believed in. And we came up with three categories of things that count as beliefs: religious belief, political belief, and "cause" belief-- for example, one of my causes is worldwide literacy.

What I couldn't convince her to do was to actually pick a strong belief and make the speech about it. Part of the problem was that the assignment was due the next day. But another part came from this student not wanting the challenge of using such a short speech to convince an audience about the power of her belief.

That's a problem a youth worker can sink his teeth into. We're called to be "always ready to give an explanation for the hope that is within us," (1 Peter 3:15) and sometimes we only have a short time to do so.

With that in mind, here's an exercise I use, borrowed from a pastor I worked with.

Get students to pick partners. Then give them these instructions:

"Imagine you're in an airport seeing a friend off. You have one minute until s/he boards the plane, and your friend suddenly turns to you and says, 'You know, I've always noticed something was different about you. You have a lot more hope than most people, and you have this way of getting through things. What makes you work like that?' In the one minute before the plane leaves, explain how God's love affects your life."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Actually, it seems like an interesting intellectual exercise to challenge yourself by taking a side you don't believe in. It'll give you a better perspective on someone else's views, and bring you outside of your own. In the end, I think you'll ultimately wind up with better rhetorical skills, and an all-around better understanding of your fellow man, and why some of them think the things they do.