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Blunt Reckonings

Reflections on Passionate Oratory

Posted by C. Stan Asumen, Jr on April 18, 2016 at 11:05 PM

Some with devious heart, some with caustic tongue

Highlight their art with pride to conceal wrong

Sans qualms their peers malign to capture fame

Nor reckon how much malice taints their name

But I, sustained by hubris, deign confess

Submit these works, my own, with modesty

For you to judge without apologies

Condemn the faults, denounce each falsity.

~Asumen, Transitions, p. xv

 

One of my fourteen first degree nephews, the only one in The Asumen Clan who holds a PhD degree, posted a sermon on a clan conversation thread in Facebook with the view of eliciting a discussion. Elicit, it did, with one of my brothers waxing evangelistic in the proceedings.


For my part, I posted the comments reproduced, in its entirety below for context preservation. So far, nobody has posted a rejoinder. It makes me wonder if I had offended anybody by it, or at least by the tangent I took.

Speaking of oratory, that was what that sermon essentially was, a prepared piece of oration which was delivered with habitual mastery. I suspect that was the reason I could only suffer through a short portion of it. The problem with any oration is, of necessity it is charged to full saturation with the writer’s and/or the orator’s ego. And that is how it should be. Otherwise you cannot deliver it passionately.


I have written and delivered only one piece of oration in my entire career. It was the Valedictory Address for my high school graduation. Sadly, I did not have any occasion to repeat the feat.


I lucidly remember the reaction of Mrs. Marapao, the English teacher and female adviser to the graduating class, when I submitted the speech for her evaluation and approval. She asked who wrote it and was quite taken aback when I claimed authorship. It was only then that I learned that producing an acceptable Valedictory Address was one of her duties as an English teacher senior class adviser. Apparently she had something written for me.

One year earlier, observing Mano Fito rehearse his Address, I mumbled to myself that when it was my turn I would write my own. Mana, on her last visit with us a couple of years ago, claimed to have witnessed the incident. Ergo, I have evidence that I was not hallucinating, and I did not make this up.

But as to why the sermon provoked me to write this is anybody’s guess. Charging it to the maladies of aging old won’t be out of bounds.


 Incidentally, when I speak of The Asumen Clan, I mean to include only all the direct descendants to my parents. Of those I can account for, there are eight in the first generation of six brothers and two sisters. I am the fifth.


In my audacious attempt to reserve privilege, I claimed my position in the picking order to be the oldest of the second half. This is significant because I proposed rules of engagement embraced by the second half but frowned upon by the first.


Seventeen first degree nieces complete the second generation of thirty-one. Accounting for subsequent generations would be a task beyond the range of my radar screen. It is a task best left to a more resourceful soul.


One of the advantages of belonging to a sizeable clan obtains from the unlikely chance that if every member is so inclined to read, it justifies maintaining your own blog site. It behooves to note that size of readership has of late not a requirement to be a blogger.


Of the relatively lengthy schooling I had suffered through, I still maintain that my sojourn in high school accounted for the most enjoyable and elucidating period of school life. This was partly because it was coeval with the hormonal awakening of adolescence.


The exuberance of youth was yet unsaddled by the burdens of responsibility imposed on adulthood. It was the golden age of discovery. The cost of failure could be reasonably charged to the locus of a stunted learning curve, free from the prospective perils of irreversible damage to life and limb.


It was in this atmosphere of virtual infallibility that I was first induced to learn the craft of oratory. The canon drill was to have me memorize a speech composed by someone unknown to me but presumably acclaimed in the annals of speech writing. An English teacher would be charged with coaching the most effective and affected delivery thereof.


The canon failed to resonate with me in any riveting way. It was much too reminiscent of the practice of leading a novena, the craft I attained mastery in third grade, before the much coveted First Communion rituals. I made my hay in extemporaneous speaking which required thinking on your feet and speaking your mind with a modicum of spontaneity.


My first brush with delivering a speech that somebody else had written specifically for me was my Elementary School graduation valedictory address. It was penned by Mr. Rizalino Murcia, the Principal and teacher-in-charge of the graduating class. My delivery coach was my oldest brother, Sergio. While the project was completed with public acclaim, on hindsight and realizing that the audience did not speak any English, any semblance of success attributed to the affair proved bereft of authenticity. It left a distinctive acrid taste in the palate.


There were two literary activities in which I could not make my bones in. They were oration and declamation. Since both merely concerned with how, what and where to put the emphasis during the delivery, they really were not distinguishable one from the other. So when I look at a composition, to tell whether one is declamatory or oratory, depends upon what I had for breakfast or night cap on the other side of dreamland.


In terms of the plethora of acclaimed oratorical compositions available for the taking, it covered the gamut from the Hamlet Soliloquy and Mark Anthony’s funeral speech in Julius Caesar to masterpieces by Jose Garcia Villa and Rolando Carbonell. I was always partial to Edgar Allan Poe’s Anabelle Lee, having grown up in the farmland by the sea.


When it comes to oratory, the names that readily come to mind are Cicero and Demosthenes. In my lifetime, and personally at least, nobody beats Sir Winston Churchill in oratorical flourish and effectiveness.


In the American scene, disregarding substance and emphasizing delivery, the names that make my shortlist, in no particular ranking, are ~> Pres. Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr., Gov. Mario Como, Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Sen. Arlene Specter, Pres. William Jefferson Clinton, Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan, Liberation Theology’s Jeremiah Wright, and the master of unhinged hyperbole himself Pres. Barack Hussain Obama.


This is by no means an exhaustive list. It is just naming the ones I have been exposed to directly or otherwise.


Credit the quirks of cultural prejudice if you will, but none of the orators in the American scene can hold a candle to the Filipino orators in my short list. This include, of political luminaries, Sen. Raul S. Manglapus, Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos, and Pres. Carlos P. Garcia. Of the non-politicians I count the duo of diplomat and educator Carlos P. Romulo and my own personal mentor the venerable Dr. Queterio F. Miravite of whom I wrote at length in my first book, Flirting with Misadventures, Etc. under the section heading “The Miravite Factor,” pp. 13 ff.

 

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1 Comment

Reply C. Stan Asumen, Jr
11:35 PM on April 22, 2016 
I applied due diligence to make all hyperlinks a "no follow" proposition. Unfortunately the site editor ended up explicitly spelling out the link codes in detail instead of functioning as a hyperlink. So I ended up omitting the "no follow" specifications to make it readable.

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