Rhetoric is an ancient art that, as its best practitioners understood, takes a lifetime to master.
Sewanee's Center for Speaking & Listening offers assistance to members of the campus community who seek help as they investigate, develop, refine, and practice oral presentations—speeches, addresses, arguments, debates, and dialogues—and as they seek to understand, through listening, those spoken discourses.
But, in a larger sense, our hope and the mission to which we are dedicated is that Sewanee students will as civic leaders ready and able:
- To elevate the level of public discourse in our all-to-rancorous republic and to listen to one another even when we disagree;
- To answer the bigoted and uninformed tweet with reasoned, informed, and considered judgment – to read and write, speak and listen as befits a liberally educated adult;
- To meet defamatory utterances with passion, guided and directed by reason, but nonetheless forceful and clear and strong;
- To speak truth to power even when the risk is great and the fear nearly paralyzing;
- To pursue knowledge, to weigh evidence no matter how contradictory and complex; to distinguish what is real from what is concocted, to engage questions even when they are difficult;
- To eschew the easy talking points of partisan propagandists and instead embrace the nuances and complexities always present in any worthwhile debate or discussion;
To understand, in the end, that there is no immaculate perception. That each of us will always have a somewhat different perspective on the world, its many issues and concerns, and the several routes forward. And that, while agreement on any of these points may be rare, constructive disagreement is a worthy goal of a liberally educated citizen in a republic.