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Speech as an Interactive Process

To overcome the objection that

a man could hardly understand the

problems of women, you need to

introduce expert testimony to

strengthen your perception as a fair,

informed, and credible speaker

[overcoming psychological noise].

When listeners look puzzled or

shake their heads, provide an example

or show what you re talking

about on the chalkboard [reacting

to feedback]. Finally, on such a

warm spring day, be more energetic

in your presentation and use more

colorful language [adapting to the









Listener Listener

Listener Listener

Figure 1.3

Public Speaking as a Dynamic Process:

Successful Moment

identification The feeling of closeness

between speakers and listeners that

may overcome personal and cultural


Public Speaking, Eighth Edition, by Michael Osborn, Suzanne Osborn and Randall Osborn. Published by Allyn & Bacon.

Copyright 2007 by Pearson Education, Inc.

16 Part One The Foundations of Public Speaking

it, we see a mythical speaker and group of listeners as they are before the successful

speech has worked its magic upon them. They are separate from each other and

vaguely defined. Their pastel colors hint of their weakness in isolation from each

other. But during the dynamic process of successful speaking, they are drawn

together by the speaker s identification appeals. They are joined finally in a larger

circle of inclusion, a community, in which they enjoy both definition and expanded

power. Note the use of the power color, royal blue, to reinforce this impression of

greater collective strength (see Chapter 11 for more about the meaningfulness of

color). The speaker also shares in this new sense of identity and power. When this

new group takes action, following the speaker s leadership, they will have a much

greater chance of achieving their purpose than had they acted alone.

Burke s concept of identification is one of those rich conceptions we draw upon

throughout this course, because it explains so much. For example, it helps explain

the power of the appeal offered in Anna Aley s speech protesting slum housing in

her town of Manhattan, Kansas:

. . . What can one student do to change the practices of numerous

Manhattan landlords? Nothing, if that student is alone. But just think of what

we could accomplish if we got all 13,600 off-campus students involved in

this issue! Think what we could accomplish if we got even a fraction of those

students involved! [See Anna Aley s speech at the end of Chapter 16.]

Anna, a Kansas State student, helped her listeners realize that they were victims

of slum housing. In other words, she pointed out their identity. And she offered a

new, dynamic vision of themselves acting together to correct these abuses. Similarly,

much of the power of Vanderbilt student Ashlie McMillan s tribute to her dwarf

cousin is that Tina is so small physically but so large spiritually. Tina becomes an

example listeners can identify with, and listeners themselves become larger as they

take her life as a lesson:

The next time a large obstacle stands in your way, remember Tina, my small

cousin who has achieved such noteworthy things. You too may seem too short

to grasp your stars, but you never know how far you might reach if you stand

upon a dream. [See Ashlie McMillan s speech at the end of Chapter 17.]

Finally, identification helps us explain the power of public speaking on the wider

stage of public affairs. Effective politicians typically offer voters new visions of themselves.

They may have been victims of bad policy, but now they can become a force for

change. When Martin Luther King Jr. strove to change racial practices in America, he

offered an answer for the legacy of humiliation and segregation that continued to

divide Americans in his time. In his celebrated speech, I Have a Dream, King

offered a vision of identification as an answer to the old racial divisions:

I have a dream that . . . one day right there in Alabama little black boys and

black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as

sisters and brothers. I have a dream today.16

Throughout the course of the civil rights movement King led from 1956 to

1968, he repeatedly identified himself with Moses as a leader. He spoke as though

he had been destined by God to lead his followers out of their Egypt of semi-slavery.

Those who responded, many of whom had suffered from degrading identities

Public Speaking, Eighth Edition, by Michael Osborn, Suzanne Osborn and Randall Osborn. Published by Allyn & Bacon.

Copyright 2007 by Pearson Education, Inc.

Chapter 1 Public Speaking and You 17

assigned to them for generations, were redefined by his rhetoric as the Children of

Israel. 17 Through the many battlefields of the civil rights movement, where they

would be beaten, jailed, and some of them killed, these people saw themselves as

moving toward a new Promised Land. King was still offering visions of that land on

the night before he was assassinated.

As his leadership emerged over those years, King s own image seemed to grow

and expand. And his followers were also transformed into heroic figures as they

marched through one ordeal after another. These transformations indicate how people

can grow and enlarge when they interact in ethical communication that inspires

and encourages the humanity of listeners. In contrast, deceitful and dishonest communication

that is designed to manipulate or browbeat listeners or that misuses

source material can reduce the humanity of listeners.

Plato, of course, told us long ago in the Phaedrus that ethical communication

that respects the humanity of listeners and nourishes it with responsible knowledge

encourages the spiritual growth of both speaker and listeners. This connection

between Kenneth Burke and Plato, identification and ethical communication, leads

us into the next section.

Date: 2015-02-16; view: 1301

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