Editor’s Note: As many parents and teachers know, middle schoolers often question if what they’re learning in class will ever apply to real life. This week, Oratory Fellow Darrin Comstock explains a visit his students shared with former Congressman Hal Daub. Read how their meeting encouraged the students to consider the importance of effective public speaking.
As a Ford’s Theatre National Oratory Fellow, I am always looking for opportunities to expose my students to public speaking and great orators. When I discovered that Ford’s has a partnership with the United States Association of Former Members of Congress, I thought, “Let me get this straight. All I have to do is ask, and you will arrange to have someone who served in the House of Representatives come to my class and discuss public speaking with my students? Where do I sign up for that!?”
Enter Hal Daub, a former four-term Congressman and two-term Mayor of Omaha, Nebraska, where we live. He was excited to hear what we do with the National Oratory Fellows and our students, and he immediately set up a visit to our school. As I was prepping my students for this tremendous opportunity, I could see they were skeptical. Nothing amps up the excitement level of 8th graders like a visit from another adult in a suit and tie!
Our visit with Daub exceeded all of our expectations! Daub tailored his presentation to highlight what we do with the Oratory Fellows, and described what we call “Podium Points” as an essential element of his daily work. My students were floored to hear their Podium Points used by someone so illustrious.
It was incredibly powerful to have someone as accomplished as a former Congressman offer my students first-hand examples of how skills learned in oratory training will help them in their chosen careers. Daub described the first speech he gave on the floor of the House, how he used his oratory training to prepare for debates, and how useful this training and experience were when he had to deliver a (painful) Senate race concession speech. My students were so engaged and impressed with Mr. Daub that they continued to ask him questions for 45 minutes!
This was a day neither I nor my students will soon forget. Mr. Daub was so impressed with my students’ enthusiasm and by the Ford’s Oratory Fellows program that he is coming back for a second visit in March.
What an adventure! To find out more about the National Oratory Fellows and other Ford’s Theatre professional development opportunities, visit http://www.fords.org/home/education/teacher-programs.
Darrin Comstock is a second-year National Oratory Fellow. He teaches 8th-grade American History and is head of the social studies department at Andersen Middle School in Omaha, Nebraska.