Not much to speak of

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It’s the off-the-cuff speeches that take the most preparation.

I’ve never been a great public speaker. Come to think of it, I haven’t even been a public speaker. The last time I addressed someone in public was when I asked what aisle had mayonnaise.

But I am undeterred. Perhaps I mean undaunted. Or unhinged. Whatever. You get it.

I want to be a good speaker.

I have a lot of examples to look up to. Take Daniel Webster. I remember from school that, if nothing else, he was a great orator.

He spoke against nullification and disunion in his famous “Second Reply to Hayne,” concluding with the immortal line… hold on.

He didn’t actually say “hold on.” I mean, I suppose he could have, but that’s not the point.

What I’m trying to say here is that I’m devoting valuable page space to this chap, when I should be devoting it to me. How else am I supposed to get my face on the currency?

I have a long road to walk, mouth-wise, before I can become the Webster of my generation.

For one, I can make more sensible expressions than mouth-wise. Inventing words may work well for Shakespeare, but it does me no favors.

I also notice Shakespeare’s on the currency, just like our American pal Webster. Coincidence? I think not.

So I advance again toward the podium. Figuratively, not literally. I don’t talk very well up there.

I am prone to longwindedness when I verbalize such that I circumlocute the subject in an attempt to allay discomfort resulting from the situation in question.

I use big words because public speaking makes me nervous.

I don’t do any better in casual conversations. Whenever I try those, a medical miracle ensures that my mouth completely disconnects from my brain. I can’t tell what one or the other is doing.

I could be thinking about something intelligent, like foreign policy, which is handy if you’re trying to be Daniel Webster.

But the only speech I’ll produce will be about the time I swallowed a jelly cup whole, or something like that.

I remember that incident because it was the only time in my life where I thought I might need the Heimlich maneuver.

My whole life flashed before my eyes, and to be honest, I’d give it a three out of 10.

I want to do better than that. It ought to be at least a six.

Every now and then, I’m reminded of that incident. Just so you know, I survived.

But when I get up to talk in front of people, whether it’s at a dinner, or a wedding, or my reflection in a mirror, I feel like that jelly cup is still stuck in my throat.

So I cough and splutter and manage to get going. I stop often. Someway or another, I muddle to the end of those speeches.

Perhaps my attempts at speechmaking invite reflection. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

The person in the mirror might smile at the end of these orations, but she’s an audience of one.

Someday I might have a larger audience, and maybe even stand behind a real podium.

Until then, hold on.

Copyright 2024 Alexandra Paskhaver, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Alexandra Paskhaver is a software engineer and writer. Both jobs require knowing where to stick semicolons, but she’s never quite; figured; it; out. For more information, check out her website at https://apaskhaver.github.io.

Alexandra Paskhaver is a software engineer and writer. Both jobs require knowing where to stick semicolons, but she’s never quite; figured; it; out. For more information, check out her website at https://apaskhaver.github.io.