Today was the anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination. People have been remembering him all day. Malcolm X was a tremendous speaker and activist, but I think what moved many people even more was his change from Black Nationalism to an inclusive humanistic message. Nevertheless, regardless of what he had to say, he had a gift to move people. I remember one time I had some students listening to his speech “The Ballot or the Bullet” for a public speaking class. They were to take notes and answer questions about what they heard. I noticed that one student was listening and reading along with the text of the speech. He seemed transfixed while the others were writing. At the end of class, he asked me for the link to the speech. “I couldn’t take notes,” he said, “I’ve never heard anything like that, and all I could do was listen.” He went on to tell me what the speech meant to him and how Malcolm X’s words addressed his personal circumstances. I might not have believed him had I not witnessed the changes in his expression as the speech played. I gave him permission to email me the answers to the questions later. It’s great when something can still move today’s students.
This evening, there was an interesting interview on American Public Media’s The Story of Malcolm Shabazz, Malcolm X’s grandson. He spoke inspirationally about his troubles, growing up, and getting his life back on track. Here is a link to a text interview with Malcolm Shabazz. This link is also found on The Story page. Malcolm Shabazz’s story parallels his grandfather’s story in some ways, but being 26 years old, his issues will resonate with today’s students. I’ll probably allow extra credit for students to write about this episode of The Story.
On the same episode there was an interview with a woman who has written to the Starbucks company every day for five years. It reminded me of this PostADay challenge so many of us are doing on WordPress. It’s amazing when people can actually make themselves stick to something for so long. I also liked the way her messages to Starbucks were so interesting. She asked questions like “Do you think art is better when it is born of frustration or leisure?” These are questions that it might be interesting to hear the corporate entity that is Starbucks answer, or at least to hear their marketing director answer. The most interesting thing to me, though was the idea that her letters were being read and appreciated by who knows how many staff who are charged with reading and responding to customer complaints and issues. Sure, her letters did not, for the most part, require a response, but she did receive several from the company. A few of them were even personal. It just goes to show you that you never know how you will impact someone with whatever little thing you do.
Listen to and read more moving speeches at American Rhetoric.