Here we are at the end of another year. We have a golden opportunity to make a family gathering a very special event. All we have to do is say something from the heart to the people present. The course I teach most often, Communication Arts and Sciences 100 is introductory and mandatory (two words many students and professors dread) but I love teaching the course for lots of reasons. The best reason of all: I get to remind students that speaking well makes everything we do better.
The type of speech I propose you give this holiday season is short, sweet and heartfelt. If you were a student in CAS 100 you would know that the speech most appropriate for this holiday season is a commemorative speech. It could be a toast at Christmas dinner or a few words you want to say before everyone begins to open gifts or gets ready to put on their coats and go home.
There are some memorable commemorative speeches from which we could draw inspiration. Most of us can remember the famous line from President Ronald Reagan’s remarks at the Brandenburg Gate in 1987 or Barbara Bush’s Wellesley address “Choices and Change” delivered in 1990. These were commemorative speeches with lasting impact. Maybe we won’t have the opportunity to give a speech that will reach as many people as these have, but we can still have deep and lasting impact with our words merely to our family and friends.
Think about what your family has accomplished or overcome this year? Is someone well who was ill? Has a child finished a first semester in college successfully? Was there a milestone birthday or anniversary? Did someone make an effort to try something new? Whether or not he or she succeeded, the effort is honorable. These events may not make the news, but they are significant to you and the ones you love and they can be made even more significant with a few choice words to mark the occasion.
In Steven R. Brydon and Michael D. Scott’s outstanding public speaking textbook, Between One and Many the Art and Science of Public Speaking, we learn that a commemorative speech is a speech that calls attention to the stature of the person or the people being honored, or emphasizes the significance of the occasion.
Imagine the delight and appreciation of your family and friends when you stand up and say simply: “I’d like to say a few words on this special holiday.” Be brief and speak from the heart. Your holiday will be more special for you and the ones you love because your speaking well will make it so.