Zach Wahls Speaks About Family, YouTube, 2011. View Zach Wahls’s February 1, 2011 speech to the Iowa House of Representatives. We will analyze this speech to illustrate points about effective delivery.
Question 1 (Chapter 13)
View Zach Wahls’s February 1, 2011 speech to the Iowa House of Representatives. We will analyze this speech to illustrate points about effective delivery.
Zach Wahls Speaks About Family, YouTube, 2011
On February 1, 2011, Zach Wahls, a native Iowan raised by two women, spoke to the Iowa House of Representatives during a hearing on same-sex marriage. A student at the University of Iowa at the time, Wahls delivered a clear, impassioned speech that still stands as a model of effective public speaking. The speech not only made headlines across the country, but it also turned Wahls into a prominent advocate.
As you watch the speech, pay special attention to Wahls’s delivery. Please note Wahls’s expert delivery does not call attention to itself, but conveys his ideas clearly, convincingly, and without distracting the audience.
After viewing the video:
Analyze Wahls’s vocal variety, strategic pauses, natural gestures, and eye contact.
After you analyze a strategy, be certain to give a specific example from the speech to support your evaluation.
Special Note: Some of you may have difficulty focusing on Wahls’s delivery because of the issue he is addressing. The purpose of the exercise is not to debate the merits of Wahls’s position, but to analyze the manner in which he presents the speech. Discussing this speech allows us to bridge the gap between the principles of public speaking presented in the textbook and the application of those principles by a student speaker in a prominent public forum.
Discussion Questions: QUESTION #1 MUST BE ANSWERED BY EVERYONE. You must also respond to Question #2.
1. Question 1
What did you learn about your speech delivery process by self-evaluating your PowerPoint Presentation Speech?
After completing the peer reviews of your peers’ PowerPoint Presentation Speeches, what are two positive key ideas you observed that you want to incorporate into your next speech?
2. Question 2 (Chapter 12)
Analyze the persuasive speech “A Whisper of AIDS,” which appears below.
Part 1: First, focus your analysis on how the speaker utilizes the following to enhance the impact of her ideas. Be sure to give an example from the speech to support each of your analyses.
Part 2: Next, Fisher uses three strategies of support and reasoning within her speech: examples, statistics, and testimony.
Choose one of these strategies
Define the strategy
Give an example of this strategy from the speech
Then indicate why this strategy was successful
A Whisper of AIDS – Mary Fisher
1 Less than three months ago, at platform hearings in Salt Lake City, I asked the Republican Party to lift the shroud of silence which has been draped over the issue of HIV and AIDS. I have come tonight to bring our silence to an end.
2 I bear a message of challenge, not self-congratulation. I want your attention, not your applause. I would never have asked to be HIV-positive. But I believe that in all things there is a purpose, and I stand before you and before the nation, gladly.
3 The reality of AIDS is brutally clear. Two hundred thousand Americans are dead or dying; a million more are infected.
Worldwide 40 million, 60 million, or 100 million infections will be counted in the coming few years. But despite science and research, White House meetings and congressional hearings, despite good intentions and bold initiatives, campaign slogans and hopeful promises—it is, despite it all, the epidemic which is winning tonight.
4 In the context of an election year, I ask you—here in this great hall or listening in the quiet of your home—to recognize that the AIDS virus is not a political creature. It does not care whether you are Democrat or Republican. It does not ask whether you are black or white, male or female, gay or straight, young or old.
5 Tonight, I represent an AIDS community whose members have been reluctantly drafted from every segment of American society. Though I am white and a mother, I am one with a black infant struggling with tubes in a Philadelphia hospital. Though I am female and contracted this disease in marriage and enjoy the warm support of my family, I am one with the lonely gay man sheltering a flickering candle from the cold wind of his family’s rejection.
6 This is not a distant threat; it is a present danger. The rate of infection is increasing fastest among women and children. Largely unknown a decade ago, AIDS is the third leading killer of young adult Americans today—but it won’t be third for long. Because, unlike other diseases, this one travels. Adolescents don’t give each other cancer or heart disease because they believe they are in love. But HIV is different, and we have helped it along. We have killed each other with our ignorance, our prejudice, and our silence.
7 We may take refuge in our stereotypes, but we cannot hide there long. Because HIV asks only one thing of those it attacks: Are you human? And this is the right question: Are you human? Because people with HIV have not entered some alien state of being. They are human. They have not earned cruelty and they do not deserve meanness. They don’t benefit from being isolated or treated as outcasts. Each of them is exactly what God made—a person. Not evil, deserving of our judgment; not victims, longing for our pity. People: Ready for support and worthy of compassion.
8 My call to you, my party, is to take a public stand no less compassionate than that of the President and Mrs. Bush. They have embraced me and my family in memorable ways. In the place of judgment, they have shown affection. In difficult moments, they have raised our spirits. In the darkest hours, I have seen them reaching not only to me but also to my parents, armed with that stunning grief and special grace that comes only to parents who have themselves leaned too long over the bedside of a dying child.
9 With the President’s leadership, much good has been done; much of the good has gone unheralded; and, as the President has insisted, “Much remains to be done.”
10 But we do the President’s cause no good if we praise the American family but ignore a virus that destroys it. We must be consistent if we are to be believed. We cannot love justice and ignore prejudice, love our children and fear to teach them. Whatever our role, as parent or policymaker, we must act as eloquently as we speak—else we have no integrity.
11 My call to the nation is a plea for awareness. If you believe you are safe, you are in danger. Because I was not hemophiliac, I was not at risk. Because I was not gay, I was not at risk. Because I did not inject drugs, I was not at risk.
12 My father has devoted much of his lifetime guarding against another Holocaust. He is part of the generation who heard Pastor Niemoeller come out of the Nazi death camps to say: “They came after the Jews, and I was not a Jew, so I did not protest. They came after the trade unionists, and I was not a trade unionist, so I did not protest. Then they came after the Roman Catholics, and I was not a Roman Catholic, so I did not protest. Then they came after me, and there was no one left to protest.”
13 The lesson history teaches is this: If you believe you are safe, you are at risk. If you do not see this killer stalking your children, look again. There is no family or community, no race or religion, no place left in America that is safe. Until we genuinely embrace this message, we are a nation at risk.
14 Tonight, HIV marches resolutely toward AIDS in more than a million American homes, littering its pathway with the bodies of the young—young men, young women, young parents, and young children. One of the families is mine. If it is true that HIV inevitably turns to AIDS, then my children will inevitably turn to orphans.
15 My family has been a rock of support. My eighty-four-year-old father, who has pursued the healing of the nations, will not accept the premise that he cannot heal his daughter. My mother refuses to be broken; she still calls at midnight to tell wonderful jokes that make me laugh. Sisters and friends and my brother Phillip, whose birthday is today—all have helped carry me over the hardest places. I am blessed, richly and deeply blessed, to have such a family.
16 But not all of you have been so blessed. You are HIV-positive but dare not say it. You have lost loved ones, but you dared not whisper the word AIDS. You weep silently; you grieve alone.
17 I have a message for you: It is not you who should feel shame. It is we—we who tolerate ignorance and practice prejudice, we who have taught you to fear. We must lift our shroud of silence, making it safe for you to reach out for compassion. It is our task to seek safety for our children, not in quiet denial but ineffective action.
18 Someday our children will be grown. My son Max, now four, will take the measure of his mother. My son Zachary, now two, will sort through his memories. I may not be here to hear their judgments, but I know already what I hope they are.
19 I want my children to know that their mother was not a victim. She was a messenger. I do not want them to think, as I once did, that courage is the absence of fear. I want them to know that courage is the strength to act wisely when most we are afraid. I want them to have the courage to step forward when called by their nation or their party and give leadership, no matter what the personal cost. I ask no more of you than I ask of myself or of my children.
20 To the millions of you who are grieving, who are frightened, who have suffered the ravages of AIDS firsthand: Have courage and you will find support.
21 To the millions who are strong, I issue the plea: Set aside prejudice and politics to make room for compassion and sound policy.
22 To my children, I make this pledge: I will not give in, Zachary, because I draw my courage from you. Your silly giggle gives me hope. Your gentle prayers give me strength. And you, my child, give me the reason to say to America: “You are at risk.” And I will not rest, Max, until I have done all I can to make your world safe. I will seek a place where intimacy is not the prelude to suffering.
23 I will not hurry to leave you, my children. But when I go, I pray that you will not suffer shame on my account.
24 To all within sound of my voice, I appeal: Learn with me the lessons of history and of grace, so my children will not be afraid to say the word AIDS when I am gone. Then their children, and yours, may not need to whisper it at all.
25 God bless the children and God bless us all. Goodnight. No