by Peter Watts
America has made itself the home of public speaking. A nation of free speech.
While other countries debate if public speaking skills even belong in the classroom, American children “Show and Tell” from the age of six. Once past the Show and Tell stage, Speech and Debate classes continue their development.
The Greeks and Romans started the art of oratory, and during the 20th and 21st centuries it was with their MLKs and JFKs, with their Reagans’ and Obamas’, that America championed oratory. That tradition is honored as American children continue to be equipped with self-belief and confidence.
To speak in public you need to own what you are saying, to own what you believe, and to believe in yourself.
Teaching someone to doubt themselves is to drain passion at its source. It is a form of abuse. To consciously teach someone to repress their identity, is not a value of America.
The Boy Scouts have this week voted to continue their own form of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, excluding gay youngsters from membership. For the Scouts, DADT is endorsed in its most extremist form: Don’t exist.
Making young people lie about their identity and to doubt themselves, is not a value of America.
They are teaching children and young adults to fib about themselves, to lie about themselves, and ultimately to deny themselves.
Denial of self-identity, is not a value of America.
It has been pointed out that according to a Supreme Court ruling back in 2000, that the Scouts are entitled to deny membership to whomsoever they like. Well, the same logic is used to keep people of color out of private colleges.
It doesn’t make it right. It merely makes it legal. Jim Crow laws were legal. While the Boy Scouts might be content to sit with such values, times have changed, and today, Jim Crow is not a value of America.
The decision of the Boy Scouts does have one positive aspect though. There is one wonderful way in which it can power speaking; it can power anger about injustice.
Anger about injustice has powered many of those great American speakers. Those MLKs, those JFKs, and all of those other great speakers who came before them were all powered by a burning rage against injustice.
To speak out against injustice, that is a value of America.