January 21, 2013

Holidays, Oratory, and History

Today was both Martin Luther King Day and Inauguration Day. (It was also Squirrel Appreciation Day but that pales in significance unless you happen to be a squirrel.)

The inauguration of a president is traditionally a time for speeches, which makes me think of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, one of the greatest speeches made during the Civil War. (Lincoln's Gettysburg Address was another one, of course.) And more recently Martin Luther King made some great and influential speeches, which is one of the reasons we celebrate his birthday. My brother actually heard Dr. King speak at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963! (We lived in nearby Fairfax County at the time and my brother was home from college for the summer.)

The other day I heard on the radio that schools are being encouraged to devote more time to having students read great speeches. I guess we had gotten away from that and now we are moving back. Seems like a good idea! Abe Lincoln studied the great speeches of the past, apparently learning them from The Columbian Orator, which was also studied by Frederick Douglass. Both of these men became great orators, and no doubt that book helped countless other students to improve their speaking and writing skills.


  1. How exciting that your brother got to hear Dr. King speak. That must have been very memorable.

  2. Yes, it was exciting. I did not go because I was younger and would not have navigated the crowds well without a parent to guide me, but later I wished I had been able to go. At the time I did not foresee that it would be a milestone event and I'm sure my mother did not see it either or she might have taken me. Of course, I have seen film versions of the speech and it was a masterpiece of oratory.


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