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I Have Something to Say: Mastering the Art of Public Speaking in an Age of Disconnection

John Bowe

"In eleventh grade, John Bowe's cousin Bill asked a classmate to prom. She said no. Bill responded by moving to the family basement--and staying there for the next forty-three years. But in 1992, at the age of fifty-nine, Bill surprised everyone who knew him: he got married. Bowe learned that Bill credited his turnaround to a nonprofit club he'd joined called Toastmasters International. Fascinated by the idea that speech training seemed to foster the kind of psychological well-being more commonly sought through expensive psychiatric treatment, and intrigued by the notion that words could serve as medicine--healing the shy, connecting the disconnected, and mending our frayed social fabric--Bowe sets out to learn for himself what he'd gathered from so many others: when you learn to speak in public, you undergo a profound transformation that has very little to do with standing at a podium"--

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Book Information

Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: 08/11/2020
Pages: 240
ISBN-13: 9781400062102
ISBN-10: 1400062101
Language: English

What We're Saying

August 21, 2020

"The idea of a nonprofit organization carrying the torch of an obscure, long-lost tradition emphasizing social and interpersonal skills seemed to bear upon every dour preoccupation I’ve ever nursed about modern life, capitalism, and technology." READ FULL DESCRIPTION

Full Description

A veteran journalist discovers an ancient system of speech techniques for overcoming the fear of public speaking--and reveals how they can profoundly change our lives. In 2010, award-winning journalist John Bowe learned that his cousin Bill, a longtime extreme recluse living in his parents' basement, had, at the age of fifty-nine, overcome a lifetime of shyness and isolation--and gotten happily married. Bill credited his turnaround to Toastmasters, the world's largest organization devoted to teaching the art of public speaking. Fascinated by the possibility that speech training could foster the kind of psychological well-being more commonly sought through psychiatric treatment, and intrigued by the notion that words can serve as medicine, Bowe set out to discover the origins of speech training--and to learn for himself how to speak better in public. From the birth of democracy in Ancient Greece until two centuries ago, education meant, in addition to reading and writing, years of learning specific, easily taught language techniques for interacting with others. Nowadays, absent such education, the average American speaks 16,000 to 20,000 words every day, but 74 percent of us suffer from speech anxiety. As he joins Toastmasters and learns, step-by-step, to successfully overcome his own speech anxiety, Bowe muses upon our record levels of loneliness, social isolation, and political divisiveness. What would it mean for Americans to learn once again the simple art of talking to one another? Bowe shows that learning to speak in public means more than giving a decent speech without nervousness (or a total meltdown). Learning to connect with others bestows upon us an enhanced sense of freedom, power, and belonging.

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