We’ve continued the use of that ancient word, forum, in our cultural language, but just how important is speech in today’s society? You might think that public speaking skills are outdated and no longer relevant. Surely people in our present-day societies don’t gather to listen to the rhetoric of argument and debate. You might even think that speaking well is no longer a criterion for success. Then how do you explain the American judicial system? Public speech is an inherent component in that process. Two adversarial lawyers arguing points of law before a jury is an example of public speaking at its best. Citizens are asked to determine guilt or innocence based on the effectiveness of the speakers and their arguments. In fact, people make important decisions every day based on a speaker’s skill in communicating.
Think about our political process. In democratic societies around the world, citizens gather to hear political candidates debate the pertinent issues. Often the choices people make about who should be elected are based, in large part, on the candidate’s ability to speak fluently and eloquently in public. Consider political protests and rallies. Aren’t these concerned citizens are much like the early Greeks and Romans gathering in a public place in order to exercise their right to public speech? The American people considered freedom of speech so important that it became a founding principle in the creation of their democracy.