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Speech, speech!

Barry McNamara
Earlier this month, Monmouth College made news with the addition of a forensic science class (think “CSI: Monmouth”).

This week, forensics – “the art or study of formal debate” – will be front and center, as the college hosts “Celebrating Oratory in the Midwest” on Sept. 23 at 4:30 p.m. in the Morgam Room in Poling Hall.

One of the featured speakers will be Charles Courtney, a 1957 Monmouth graduate who went on to become a professor of philosophy and religion at Drew University. Courtney will speak about “The Rediscovery of James Erskine ’81 and the Oratory Competition of 1880.”

On Oct. 13, 1880, an Inter-Collegiate Oratorical Contest was held in Galesburg, and participants included two students who would go on to achieve national fame – three-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan and noted social reformer Jane Addams, who was the first woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize. But the winner that evening was Monmouth’s Erskine, whose oration, “The People in History,” was centered on the idea that the common people are more important in historic events than famous leaders.

Also on the program for the celebration will be a critical review of Erksine’s oration by assistant professor of communication studies Kate Zittlow Rogness; a talk on Addams and Bryan by senior Jim Fry of Monmouth, who is president of Lambda Pi Eta, the communication honor society; and “Oratory and Civic Life in America,” a talk by MC’s new dean of the faculty, David Timmerman.

The celebration will close with a talk by communication studies lecturer James Wyman on the return of ScotSpeak, Monmouth’s competitive speech team. Wyman will direct the group, which experienced success in several competitions in the recent past. The return of ScotSpeak was one of the seven academic initiatives that Monmouth College announced last spring.