Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 20, No. 14. September 26, 1957
Is Oratory Out of Date?
Is Oratory Out of Date?
Oratory, not public speaking, was sought by this year's Plunket Medal judges (Miss J. Stevens. Mr. H. A. Heron, and Mr. S. A. Wiren).
It might be thought dated, but Plunket Medal was still an oratory contest. Mr. Heron said.
That was how W. Dent, second-year law student and newcomer to the contest, beat such experienced and competent speakers as Miss M. O'Reilly (second) and E. W. Thomas (third). It was not, Mr. Heron emphasised, because he was an old boy of Wellington College.
Keir Hardie. Britain's first Labour M.P. caught Mr. Dent's imagination through a B B.C. broadcast on his centenary. The audience was spared a mass of detail and the speaker drew out his appeal, using a pleasant voice to good advantage.
Independent and proud. Hardie's mission was to make the House aware of poverty and unemployment. His place was on a street corner, he appealed to stray dogs and children; he was greeted with closed minds and open mouths in World War I. These were snatches of true oratory.
So many contestants are banal about the death of their hero. Keir Hardic, said Mr. Dent, had been spurned for his pacifist beliefs, and could only die. "This he died.
Melda O'Reilly has worked hard in Plunket Medal contests. Hot, technique is good, she makes sure she [unclear: now] every word of her speech, and that the audience can hear her clearly. "The Unknown Warrior" was a difficult subject. Nothing could be more impersonal. Miss O'Reilly showed how impersonal modern war can obliterate us all if we continue to try to keep out of war by not thinking of it, as did the people of the 1930's. "the future will bring neither warriors nor heroes, but only the nameless dead." petitor, was third with Trygve Lie, [unclear: "a]
E. W. Thomas, another regular com-man who dared to believe that peace could be won and held." Lie served for seven years as U N. Secretary-General without lack of fervour, will, or energy. For an experienced speaker Mr. Thomas's enunciation was surprising "secretary" is not hard to pronounce.
J.A. Doogue impressed. Nature, clear and forceful, if too tense, he gave a good account both of himself and his subject. Robert Flaherty, the pioneer of documentary films. Mr. Doogue depended too much on notes, but had judging been on public speaking, he would have secured a high place.
Flaherty's life work consisted of variations on one theme, man's response to the challenge of his environment. He was the poet of the motion picture, who brought out the innate decency, courage, and invincibility of the human spirit.
J. H. Larsen was unwise to choose Portugal's Dr. Salazar, a recluse who avoids publicity and wears an overcoat to save heating. How can one enthuse about such a person, especially now that budget balancing is no longer fashionable as a government's prime duty?
P. O'Brien is the third of his family to attempt Plunket Medal. With a more personal hero than the Duke of Wellington, his pleasant voice should enable him to match his brother's win in 1946.
T. King chose Freud. An experienced and competent speaker, he did not conform with the set recipe for the conicst, but amused the audience.
Due largely to an unfortunate lack of press publicity, the audience was small. Last year's controversy over the pricings should have renewed public interest this year. The Debatmg Society has a good friend is Mr. B. M. O'Connor. 1939 winner, whose "Evening Post" reports have done much to reinstate the contest as an event in university life. Was he not asked to arrange prior publicity this year?
The audience was not only small, but unresponsive-which was the speakers' fault. It is hopeless to attempt to serve warmed up biography as oratory. I he really successful orator has to be worked up about his subject. H. C MacNcil achieved this a year ago, and this year Mr. Dent did so sufficiency to win the contest in his fast attempt and at the age of nineteen.