Spanning everything from a step dancing demonstration to a discussion of the treatment of Pakistan’s transgender community, students presented their interests and passions during the launch event of Harvard Speaks on Thursday.
The event, hosted by a newly established public speaking organization, provided a forum for students to share their experiences outside the classroom through the spoken word.
Harvard Speaks was founded by Meredith C. Baker ’13-’14 and Eliza L. Malkin ’13 this fall.
After Baker enrolled in Expos 40: Public Speaking Practicum and had the opportunity to speak about her experiences in front of her classmates, Baker and Malkin decided to create “a platform for all Harvard students” to do the same.
Both Baker and Malkin said they aim to promote the value of public speaking through this organization. “All great causes have great orators behind them,” said Baker. “Hopefully, [Harvard Speaks] will cause people to think about how they want to express their ideas, and how to convey that with words.”
Along with its mission of promoting public speaking, philanthropy is at the core of Harvard Speaks’ mission. Each student speaker chooses a charity to endorse; often, these charities are in some way related to speeches given by the participants. As an organization, Harvard Speaks supports Team Rubicon, a disaster relief group that utilizes the skills of military veterans to provide disaster response teams.
Marjorie E. Zohn, an Expos 40 teaching assistant, said that Harvard Speaks is a great opportunity for students prepare for life after Harvard. “It becomes increasingly problematic to advance in one’s career if you are not a practiced public speaker,” she said. “Training this early is the best thing they could do.”
Every student speech is recorded and uploaded on the organization’s YouTube channel for the Harvard community. The group will hold two more events this semester before expanding to monthly sessions in the Spring. Students can nominate a fellow undergraduate or themselves to speak.
“At a place like this, you realize age is not a limit and people–before they came here, during their time here, and after–are already doing incredible things,” Baker said. “Part of the reason you come here is because of the incredible people you meet, and this is a venue to get to know them better.”
Malkin also emphasized the importance of giving Harvard undergraduates a voice. “We have some incredible professors, and we do get incredible speakers–and they’re not to be overlooked by any means–but there are also undergraduates doing absolutely phenomenal things,” she said.
“I think it just speaks to the fact that everyone has a story worth listening to,” Baker added.