Orating for Justice

Stock image of a school classroom (courtesy of Pixabay).

Sometimes, we unintentionally challenge the way others think. This prompts dialogue, which is essential for creating change. Unexpected events are very important to shaping the way others think about certain situations. Sometimes, they make one really think deeply about a topic or moment. We can use our voices to spark movements, and that’s incredible.

I personally like to start discussions regarding politics. So, when I was presented with an opportunity to do so in school, I took it. I’ve been taking Latin for four years now, and this is my last year. Recently, my class was tasked with crafting speeches regarding current issues, and presenting them to the class. The assignment was part of  our unit on Cicero, who was a famous orator.

I was incredibly excited to work on this, and chose to focus my speech on the modern-day prison system. This is an extremely controversial and important issue, and there isn’t nearly enough discussion about it.

In an effort to educate my classmates, I poured my time and energy into making my speech as informative as possible. I watched two documentaries, and read countless articles to increase my own knowledge. It was so important to me that my speech was effective, and I spent many late nights writing and revising it until I was satisfied with the result.

When the day came to deliver my speech, I was really excited! It turned out I was going to be the last presenter, so I was determined to end things with a bang. I remember my name being called, and I walked up to the front of class. My adrenaline was pumping and my heart was racing, but I was ready.

I began my speech with the history of slavery in the United States. I felt the class begin to focus more attention on me as I found myself becoming more and more passionate as I went on. So, when I told them that the 13th amendment didn’t completely abolish slavery, I actually heard gasps, and saw people looking around in shock. Without even realizing it, I’d introduced them to a whole new idea. I capitalized on this, and went on to talk about how the modern-day prison system is basically legalized slavery. I felt my voice rise and my hands move as I described the school-to-prison pipeline, prison labor, and more.

After my speech was over, the class exploded. Everyone was talking about what I had to say. The energy in the room was palpable. I had sparked a dialogue. Yes, it was on a pretty small scale, but I had done something. I got a message across to 30-something people, and they responded to it. They may have forgotten my speech since then, or the exact facts I presented, but the mere fact that I was able to stir up such an important and energized conversation in my otherwise fairly boring Latin class is pretty remarkable. It was incredible to see the looks on people’s faces as I stood up and spoke my truth. Seizing that moment and really being able to provoke thought in people makes you feel amazing!

This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.

Topics: Activism, Schools
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How to cite this page

Bethune, Naomi. "Orating for Justice." 29 April 2019. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 2, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/orating-justice>.

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