Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Hu Shih and public speaking

I was looking through Two Self-Portraits: Liang Ch'i-Ch'ao and Hu Shih and came across Hu Shih's description of how he learned how to be a public speaker in English. He was a student at Cornell when he first took a course in public speaking in 1912. As he describes the experience,
My professor, Professor Everett, was a very good teacher. Summer school began in July, and the first time that I was called upon to make a speech, I actually trembled. I had made some speeches before, but this was the first time that I had had to get up and speak in a class of public speaking. Though it was a hot July day, I felt so cold that my feet trembled, and I had to hold on to the small table while I tried to think of what I had prepared to speak. Professor Everett noticed that I held on to the table, so the next time he took away the table and I was forced to think of my subject unaided. In thinking of the subject I forgot my cold feet, so I did not tremble, and that was the beginning of my career as a trained public speaker. (216)
I want to mention this to the students in my FENM class on Friday--I think the Chinese majors in particular will appreciate it...

[3/6/05 Update: At first I thought the "Professor Everett" Hu Shih mentioned was Everett Lee Hunt, one of the early members of the "Cornell School of Rhetoric," according to Thomas W. Benson. But Benson says it wasn't until 1913 that Hunt graduated from Huron College in Huron, South Dakota, "whereupon he was immediately hired [by Cornell] as an instructor in Oratory and Debate" (5). Perhaps, however, Hu Shih was mistaken about the year he took the public speaking course.

Work Cited: Benson, Thomas W. "The Cornell School of Rhetoric: Idiom and Institution." Communication Quarterly 51.1 (2003): 1-56.]

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