SIMPLE WORDS, POWERFUL MESSAGE: Student Speeches inspired by Dr. Seuss

SIMPLE WORDS, POWERFUL MESSAGE: Student Speeches inspired by Dr. Seuss

November 29, 2013
By
Written by Cathy Thornicroft, Head of School - St. Margaret's School

LISTEN IN: Grade 11/12 Winner - Amy WuGrade 9/10 Winner - Sarah EllmanGrade 7/8 Winner - Mary Danesh
 
I grew up with Dr. Seuss and although his stories on the surface appear whimsical and somewhat simple in text and format, his message is far-reaching, and his final book, Oh, The Places You'll Go! (1990), has been shared with thousands of graduates as they leave school to pursue the next stage of their learning journey.   I remember reading Green Eggs and Ham and only just discovered that it was created when Dr. Seuss was challenged to write a story that relied on only 50 words in total.  Arguably his other most famous story, The Cat in the Hat was written because Dr. Seuss thought the popular Dick and Jane primers (which is how I learned to read) were boring and would not encourage children to repeatedly practise in order to learn how to read.  Who would have thought these reasons would have compelled Dr. Seuss to provide an abundance of witty statements and words of wisdom that would prompt such fabulous story starters or speech topics?
 
This past week, students from grades 6 to 12 participated in our annual Public Speaking contest. The senior English classes chose Dr. Seuss and the actual quotations upon which the students used as a catalyst to write their speeches.   Some of the chosen quotes included:
 
"To the world, you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world."
 
"Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
 
"Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living; it's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope."
 
"Today you are You, that is truer than true; there is no one alive who is Youer than You."
 
"Why fit in when you were born to stand out."
 
"You're off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so...get on your way!"
 
The presentations were incredible and it was wonderful to see how each speech drew inspiration from these words creating a powerful, personal and engaging message that recognized many of the values that SMS tries to instill in the girls -- compassion, the importance of friendship, appreciation for a simple deed, overcoming fears, learning from mistakes, seeing the positives...
 
Public speaking requires people to be able to present their thoughts and feelings in a meaningful way.  The ability to share your ideas/opinions during an interview or give a speech to a large audience requires confidence and significant skill in knowing how to frame your views in a way that engages others. Part of the delivery of an effective speech is to make sure your topic connects with people, your message invites participation, and finally provokes an emotional response from your audience – something the listener can reflect upon at a later time.  Obviously, tone, voice modulation, presence, and body language help get the desired attention.  Great speakers show their passion and make sure the content, and the delivery, resonate with the listeners.  The ability to articulate your thoughts and present them to  others in a somewhat formal way is a powerful and useful life skill -- both in a personal and professional context.   A special thank you to the English Language Department who coordinate the classroom rounds, semi-finals, and finals and to the rest of the staff and the parents for supporting and encouraging full participation in this event.
 
"People are drawn to and influenced by leaders who communicate authentically,
connect easily with people and have an immediate impact.”
~Muriel Wilkins
 
Listen to all 11 speech finalists on Soundcloud. Read more of The Head's Tales on the SMS Blog.