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One of the most neglected fields in the range of undergraduate matriculation is that of public speaking. Too many courses are chosen which deal only with the intellect in terms of books and ink; too few, which teach their own use. It is a pity that so few college men realize that the training which a university affords is not the accumulation of a mass of miscellaneous knowledge and erudition, but a preparation for the outside world. And yet so many men persist in disregarding the one requisite which is the most beneficial in every-day life--the ability to talk. Think of a profession, a trade, an occupation in which the power to think on one's feet and the ability to express oneself are not of the utmost advantage. But the power of addressing an audience is only a side-issue. When a man is tossed into the rough-and-tumble of ordinary life, he finds his university polish of little avail, if he cannot make his stock of learning show to the best advantage. Public speaking helps him to do this. But it does more besides. It drives away the bug-bear of self-consciousness. It adds to a man's poise and balance. It supplies self-confidence.
Perhaps more men fail to realize their aspirations during their college career on account of the lack of these very qualities, than for any other reason,--men who are clever, who are earnest and energetic, who are capable and ambitious,--yet men who are afraid of forcing their own personality on those who are unacquainted with them. To urge these men to reap the benefit of a few courses in public speaking, might seem latitudinal,--were it not for the fact that these men seldom take such courses.
The Public Speaking Department of Harvard College is small, but it is competently managed. It is small on account of the absurdly small number of students who utilize its opportunity. We cannot affirm too strongly that the advantages which accrue from a training in collation are among the most underestimated assets that may be derived from a college education.
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