When the founding fathers of our country decided to add amendments to the constitution to protect individual rights, the protection to use our voice was part of the first amendment. They made sure we always had a right to use our voice; we call it, Freedom of Speech. The most fundamental of all rights is the ability to say what is on your mind. In some cases that freedom should come with a little common sense, when exercising one’s right to speak.
History tells of men who were great leaders because they could communicate with others. They spoke with words that resonate with those who listened. Theodore Roosevelt is credited with being a man who could speak with a powerful voice. His words and their delivery have placed him among the best speakers of the last hundred years.
Winston Churchill is without a doubt one of the great orators, when his country needed a leader in difficult times. His words reflected the fears and concerns of the people of England. His staunch resolve helped the island nation survive as a country and kept hope alive during the long war.
Not as well known, but no less a great speaker was Chief Joseph, leader of the tribe of Nez Perce people. In 1877, he led his people over 1,700 miles to try and avoid further bloodshed with the US Army. Near the Canadian border his tribe fought a five-day battle with the army. In the end he surrendered, but his words reflected not only the surrender of his people, but an end to a way of life. His words touched the sadness of the Native American plight in a changing country.
In bygone days before radio and television, great speakers were often revered for their skills to speak to large audiences and keep them tantalized to each word. Citizens would often travel miles to hear men speak their minds. Great orators would bellow and boast to those in attendance. The subject matter may not have been of great merit to the speeches, but the speaker, with the power of his voice, commanded the attention of all. They understood their words could entertain those in attendance.
When we meet someone for the first time our outward appearance is the first thing they notice about us. Then, as we speak they begin to see beyond our appearance and get to know a little about us. Often we gage our feelings about someone by the first impression they make in conversation. All of us have met someone for the first time and thought, “They seem like a nice person.” Or perhaps, “I have heard enough from this guy.”
We meet people who are easy to talk with and they often have a very important ability, the ability to listen. Speaking our mind is a good thing and protected by the constitution, but ability to listen can be as important a skill as speaking when it comes to communicating with others.
Hearing our voice from a recording we tend not to recognize it. We may say, “Is that how I sound? I don’t like it.” We hear ourselves speak every day and yet most people don’t recognize their own voice. I sometimes wonder, when a politician hears his own voice does he like the sound?
We all realize our voices change as we each grow older. I guess I never really thought much about it, until recently when I talked with a young man on the phone. He apologized for getting the wrong number. He said, “Sorry Mr. Clegg, I was looking for someone that is 24 and I can tell you are older.”
At first I did not realize what he meant until I hung up the phone. Then I realized he knows I was “OLD” from just my voice. I did a few voice exercises I learned in Mrs. Frances’ singing classes and I concluded I sounded pretty much the same as I always have, or at least I think I do. Yet this guy, who could not see my face. knew I was older. My speech is protected, but I guess growing older is not.
My favorite way to speak is often pointed out by my wife. She says I mumble. I don’t think of it as mumbling as much as a cross between speaking and thinking. I must admit I have trouble doing both at the same time. I realize it is difficult for her to try and figure what is in my head when mumbling is coming out of my mouth.
The sound of our voices can sometimes tell others what region of the country we are from. We know instantly when speaking with someone from the south. Those from the southwest often have a slow drawl to their voice. People from New York or New England often have a very prominent tone to their voices. We all may speak the English language, but we have over time added the many dialects of the different regions of the country.
We each are given a voice to communicate with the world around us. We say our first words sometimes before we take our first step. We discover who we are by the words we use as we grow older. We also can speak volumes as we listen to hear the words of others.
Free speech is our right to use the voice God has given us. But, that right comes with the responsibility to listen to others’ words. Those who wrote the constitution did not include listening; they must have figured we were smart enough to figure that out on our own. I hope they did not misjudge our abilities.
If we added a fee of one cent to all the wasted words spoken each day in Washington, by year’s end the national debt would be reduced. If they remember that each of them are there to represent the people, instead of a political party, they could begin to make a difference for us all. Our country began by its leaders saying, “You each have the right to speak, but the wise person will listen to others.” If we can do this, then we may see hope for the future Through the Lens.