Zhejiang University National Forest Foundation Civic Engagement Speech Presentation

This speech (3 to 4 minutes in length) asks you to identify, justify, and reflect upon an act of civic engagement that you believe deserves recognition from your peers.

For invention, you should select an act of civic engagement that you believe to be especially important. Two parts of this definition are intentionally left flexible.

  • What is meant by an “act of civic engagement” is open-ended—it could be a speech, a viral internet video, a sign posted on campus, a social gathering, an inspiring post on Facebook, or any other act of public communication. This can be an act undertaken by a person (or group of people) in history, in current events, or in your own experience. (Note that the person and action should be relatively novel to the majority of people in your audience—if it’s someone everybody learned about in high school, or an action that everybody sees on the news every day, it would be wiser to pick a different act of civic engagement.) Part of your challenge in this speech will be to define why the act “counts” as civic engagement, drawing on the Keywords readings.

  • What is meant by “important” is also open-ended, and up to you to define. For example, perhaps the communicator put themselves at risk to confront someone with more power. They might have developed a compelling response to a serious rhetorical situation. Perhaps they chose an especially creative place to share their message. Maybe their message had a valuable purpose that transformed that person’s community. Or perhaps the communicator exemplified ethical ideals of civic responsibility that have been valued by various cultures over time (ex: bu zheng, nyāya, phronesis, or nommo). Whatever way you define “important,” you also will need to defend that definition by drawing from the first set of Keywords under the heading of Community.

For arrangement, every speech will follow the same basic layout. Here’s the basic structure:

  • An introduction that includes an attention getter, basic context, a thesis, and a preview of the speech.
  • A body with the bulk of the content. It has three points:
    1. Describe the act of civic engagement. Who did it, what did they do, and when did it happen?
    2. Why does this act represent an act of civic engagement? Draw from the keywords to explain, how, exactly, does the act connects with being civically engaged?
    3. Why is this act of civic engagement important? Here, you need to advance an argument for why this action mattered and why your audience should remember it. Perhaps this is expressing the implications of this act of civic engagement, such is how it changed the wider community (ex: a school, a movement, a religious group, a university, or beyond, etc.)
  • A brief conclusion that stresses an overall theme and discusses why this act resonated for you.

To earn full points for arrangement, you need to follow this structure, incorporate a clear preview and transitions, and move briskly to stay within the time limit.

The style of your speech should be what’s sometimes called a “middle” style—not a formal oration like a commencement speech, but also not as loose or informal as an everyday conversation.

Regarding memory, you should practice amply in advance and prepare to speak extemporaneously, rather than reading from fully written-out script or striving for word-for-word memorization.

And finally, for delivery, you should focus on three important skills: maintaining consistent eye contact, staying poised (that is, not shifting your weight or fidgeting), and speaking engagingly, clearly, and fluidly (a conversationally engaged tone, fitting volume, and few vocalized pauses/verbal fillers.)

Basic Requirements:

  1. Time Limit: 3 to 4 minutes. There will be time penalties for going over or under the required time. (See grading rubric.)

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