Seton Hall University

Great American Speeches Of Our Time  

Lou Gehrig"Ours is not a country for silence, dear ones." - Mother Seton

Heard any great speeches lately? Chances are that you have heard at least one in recent memory. It affected you in some way-whether it caused you to reflect, get angry, grow sad, laugh or take affirmative action-something about that speech has stayed with you. It may even be one that you remember for many years to come. What is it that makes for a great speech-and why does it come back and hold time?

Great American Speeches of Our Time ( COST 2627 ) is one of a series of classes being offered as part of Summer at Seton Hall where students will be challenged to fully explore such questions-and provide answers based on individual interpretation combined with the eight elements of effective speech. The class runs from July 5th to August 8th and is offered online. For a full list of available classes, visit here »

"We are impacted every day by messages," states associate professor for the College of Communication and the Arts, Catherine Zizik. "Words have power-we have the power to influence other people, not just by what we do, but by what we say-and how we say it. We are going to dissect what a great speech is-the music, poetry and message. Speech is art-it breathes."

Passion is the springboard to a great speech-whether it be celebratory or tragic-and the scope of the average person can become great, often inspiring others around them. As a result, students will have the opportunity to focus on a broad array of speeches covering just about any subject, from motivational to those for special occasions, farewell addresses, award recognitions, and many others. Of course, famous examples will feature prominently during the course-Ronald Reagan's State of the Union Address that became his Challenger Shuttle tribute, or Malala Yousafzai's message, at 14 years old, defending female education in the face of Taliban extremism-are some of many to consider. And if you think the focus will only be on positive leadership, speeches can also be a moniker of demise-Richard Nixon, anyone?

Virtually any topic or area of expertise can be put through the lens of critical analysis for how it resonates with an audience. Profile your favorite athlete or entertainer-pull that monologue from your favorite movie you can't stop quoting and figure out why that's the case. But be prepared to take your fascination off the page and onto a recording-of your interpretation of that speech.

"Public speaking is one of the biggest fears in the western hemisphere," states Zizik. Yes, students, while much of this class is theoretical, some of it is practical-professor Zizik does teach public speaking, after all. However, because it is taught entirely online, this assignment will be done through and not live in front of your classmates. You can handle that, can't you? As Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself…"

In this course, you will:

  • Identify and apply the personal narrative to a broad thesis.
  • Describe strategies of personal involvement in the context of public speeches.
  • Compose an original story to be used in a speech.
  • Compare and contrast the personal stories used in many great speeches.
  • Identify rhetorical devices used in speech writing.
  • Provide original examples for 5 rhetorical devices used in speech writing.
  • Understand the differences between writing for the eye and writing for the ear.
  • Compare and contrast the effectiveness of using rhetorical devices in several political speeches that have been considered "great".

Become a better speaker-a better writer-and add some inspiration to your summer. Registration for Summer at Seton Hall is now open. 

Categories: Arts and Culture , Education , Nation and World

For more information, please contact:

  • Karen Passaro
  • 973-761-9087