A TOAST TO THEATRE 65
My sendoff speech to the public speaking class I taught for a quarter.
I recently finished teaching a class for the first time. I taught a section of public speaking students for Theatre 65 at UCSB, and it was an incredible experience. This is a class I truly value. As a tradition, on the last day of class, the professor and section leaders are generally called upon to make a speech. I expected this, and got to prepare in advance. On the actual day of the last lecture, I overslept and woke up four minutes after class had started, so I arrived late and had to deliver an impromptu version of the speech I had prepared- which worked out well. But here, below, is the speech- my toast to Theatre 65, and some words to my students:
I’d like to take you back to February 2010. Just across the courtyard. It was there that Professor Enders announced that Theatre 65 appeared to have reached its end. The department would no longer provide sufficient funding for an adequate amount of TAs.
I replied, “Psh, I’ll be your TA.”
I never expected that comment to evolve into this.
I wonder why I made it in the first place. Maybe it was because Theatre 65 was my favourite class when I was a freshman at this school. Maybe it’s because I’ve felt like I learned a lot under Dr. Enders’ instruction. Maybe it was just because I legitimately love having a little pulpit.
I think it’s because I Love this class. The class itself is a labour of Love. It gives you a lot to learn. Yes, you’ve learned a lot about rhetoric. You’ve learned what words like captavio benevolentia and kointoi topoi mean. You’ve learned how to distinguish ethos, pathos, and logos, and their strengths. You’ve learned all about speech genres, from the forensic, to the epideictic.
But that’s not all.
I think you’ve learned about yourselves and each other.
Here’s one little thing I’ve learned over the past ten weeks.
I’ve learned, that I am standing in the presence of highly eloquent, intelligent, and likeable individuals with enormous amounts of potential. Based on your in-class participation, your speeches, your growth and enthusiasm, I have been able to confirm my belief that this room is full of individuals with the talent and ambition to attain success.
Talent. And ambition.
I see talent and ambition three times a week.
Talent is Ms. Clay’s skill in exemplifying the brilliance of bilingualism.
Ambition is Mr. Brooks pinching out a flame and declaring “we are now the gods”
If talent and ambition are the keys to success, I have no doubts in this class.
Talent and ambition are important. They help keep this world going. But one thing you quickly realize is that there are plenty of talented and ambitious people. You quickly realize that competition is tough, fierce, and relentless. I believe in you all, and I believe you can all thrive in a competitive environment, but it’ll take more than your talent and ambition. Talent and ambition may keep things going, but I ask, knowing how many people live under systems of oppression, knowing about global injustices, knowing about personal problems like depression and eating disorders…
Do you want to keep the world going? Or do you want to change it?
Indeed there is a lot that can be said about talent and ambition, but I think there’s one other very important thing you can’t leave out. And don’t worry, because I’m sure this class has it too. And not everybody has it. And if you asked me, personally, I’d say there needs to be a lot more of it in the world.
In the words of Conan O’Brien, “Work hard, be kind, and amazing things are going to happen.” Be kind. Don’t forget that second half of the equation.
Based on the content of your speeches, based on your constructive feedback, and based on your rapport with one another, I am convinced you all do this as well. I am convinced that I am among a group that values Love, kindness, and compassion.
I know this.
I know this because people among you like Ms. Amber and Ms. Stevens had no problem coming up here and revealing very vulnerable things about themselves so you could really know a person, beyond their name and major.
I know this because students who do not speak English natively have overcome language barriers to build relationships, and other students have been kind and encouraging as they’ve made major strides.
I know this because as you give feedback to one another, as you listen intently to one another, you look how you can help each other grow as speakers. Really grow.
As your talent and ambition take you places, as you grow into the next J. Edgar Hoover, the future pharmacologists of America, the next wave of brilliant preachers, politicians, and professors, I hope you let your love, kindness, and compassion guide you. And when it feels like a sacrifice, when it gets tough, when you’re faced with a difficult choice, stick with it, and you’ll know it’s real. Find what it takes for you to push through- perhaps it’s a faith, perhaps it’s your family, perhaps it’s your hope for the world you want to see.
These past ten weeks have been a blast. I’ve been not only impressed by the content of your speeches, but, bear with me, by the content of your character.
And if you ever need anything from me…
“Psh, I’ll be your TA.”