Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sources of Memorable Words for Teaching on YouTube

          Occasionally, for lesson prompts on writing and public speaking, I look up "Commencement Addresses" or "Graduation Speeches" on YouTube. These searches lead me to exemplary speakers sharing inspiring words, especially for young people. I found the compelling Stanford commencement speech by Steve Jobs in this way. I printed that transcript and had my students analyze his use of language, as well as his style of delivery, to discover what made him a sought-after speaker and why his words live on even after his death. Many lessons grew out of watching that video on YouTube.

          Today, I was browsing videos online again and came across Chris Gardner's 2009 commencement speech at University of California-Berkeley.  I have added it to my Favorites in my YouTube account, to share with my students this summer, but I feel compelled to share some of the inspiring words verbatim here.

          Mr. Gardner, known as the single father who transformed himself from homeless to famous as an esteemed business executive, whose life was the subject of a film starring Will Smith, "The Pursuit of Happyness," wrote that he would like to see:

 "….a new vision of the American Dream that says achieving balance in your life is more important than the balance in your checking account, a new vision of the American Dream where appreciation is greater than expectation." 

He adds to that powerful vision these words, which remind me of the lesson learned by Scrooge in Dickens's A Christmas Carol:

"…for too long a lot of us have been living in exile in a place called Things, and it's time for us to come home to Friends, Families, and Folks."

I may use the first quotation to discuss parallelism, repetition, and contrast as stylistic techniques. I will probably have my students emulate his structure with their own continuation of "a new vision of the American Dream," a dream not based on acquisition. The second quotation could prompt a fiction piece about exiled people dwelling in a materialistic world until they discover the existence of a more meaningful place. And the video of Gardner's speech will prompt discussion and emulation of his pacing, eye contact, use of humor, purposeful pauses, etc., so that students can practice reading the pieces they have written with a group.

          Yet again, I have found that YouTube can serve as an enlightening resource for education when we take the time to search for quality!