As Personal as Speeches Go

Below is a transcript of a personal speech I wrote for one of my classes this semester in speech communication. I wanted it to be one of the first things I shared in this page because it says a lot about me, as a person, a BA student, and an advocate of the arts

Note: Words and phrases indicating where I am and study specifically have been edited out. What I can tell you about my degree program, however, is that it centers heavily on the arts, humanities, and literature.

I know I won’t be the first one to tell this tale and I know I won’t be the last one either. First of all, I’m not a stranger to discrimination. As a woman. a member of the LGBT community, and a Bachelor of Arts student, discrimination is a lot like the fourth sugar cube in my morning coffee: unnecessary, but somehow always still there. So insensitive, prejudiced, and ignorant statements usually just roll off my back pretty easily. But a few days ago, I had been shaken to my core by an overheard conversation of three students, all younger than me.

It was as if my morning coffee had spilled all over me and the fourth sugar cube hit me in the face as I sat there in front of them in our Math class, and this was how their conversation transpired. As we were waiting for the class to settle down, my classmates were chattering amongst themselves and their turn of conversation suddenly piqued my attention.

Student number 1 had asked his two friends: “What’s the easiest course in [our university]?”

And student number 2, the only girl, replied by saying: “[my degree program]!” with such unapologetic vigor, in a voice that seemed to have tried very hard to keep the, “Duh!” out of that sentence.

And they continued to go on and on about how easy it was until I couldn’t help but turn around, and say with the calmest, kindest voice I could muster: “It’s not easy. I’m a [my degree program] student.”

And the girl, with the dripping Duh in her voice, does it again as she says: “I know.”

I couldn’t understand their prejudice, how they could talk about something so easily with such little basis, or their nerve to talk about it so loudly when I was seated right in front of them. Did their course earn a start every time they ranked it above another? Did they feel smarter and better about themselves knowing that they didn’t get the “easiest” course available? Was the belief that BA [my degree program] was the “easiest” course the comfort they needed in order to get through another take on Math? If they could only see past their self-serving bias and stop to think, then maybe they would actually be able to form a logical argument.

It irked me so much that I didn’t know what to do.  Should I tell them of all the sleepless nights I’ve endured trying to understand each line Aristotle wrote? Should I tell them of how heavy your shoes could feel every time you had to walk up in front of class to deliver a speech and hope that you’ll say something that won’t make you hate yourself for the rest of the day? Should I tell them of all the essays and all the papers and all the critiques that have rendered me mirthless and drained at the end of every semester?

Maybe I should have. But I didn’t. Partly because I didn’t want to start a scene in class and partly because I knew it would be futile, given the context. Even if I told them, how could they possibly understand? They, who had no appreciation for the arts or for Machiavelli or Shakespeare, how could I expect them to even begin to understand?

How could they understand the wonder in being able to grasp what art means to one of the most important personalities in history? How could they understand the exhilaration of being able to make your audience laugh or cry? How could they understand the feeling even I have no words for when you’re actually able to write a paper that you can 100% be proud of?

So I ignored them, pushed them to the back of my mind, throwing their words like gasoline into a fire for when I need something to keep me going on those cold sleepless nights spent on papers and readings. I am by no means conceding, nor am I accepting that the humanities and the arts are as meager as they believe them to be. I ignored them because they mattered very little to me. And they should matter very little to you. They mattered very little to my passions and dreams. I ignored them because I’ve got bigger problems to solve with Marx and Nietzsche than the few who won’t even take the time to form valid arguments that aren’t designed to uplift themselves. I ignored them because no matter how many more insensitive statements they throw at me, I’m still going to be a BA [Insert undergraduate degree here] student, and proudly so.

To the people I mentioned in my speech and somehow stumbled upon this, hello. I do not see any of you as bad people and do not mean to malign or offend you (even if you had done so to me) but I do stand firm with the things I’ve said here. I hope that one day you’ll stand witness to the beauty and wonders of the humanities and arts, and come to respect them as they should be.

I won’t add anything else because I kind of want my speech to just speak for itself (and because I’ll most likely write a separate entry on this subject further) but I hope that before people open their mouths, they realize who and what they’re putting down with their words, and for such meager reasons too.

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