Several students were missing from my Introduction to Public Speaking class yesterday, and the ones who were present asked if I would scrap the lesson plan so we could watch a speech by Trump “to figure out how he got elected.”
The students pick a speech Trump gave in Florida not long before the election, we watch 10 minutes of it, and then they talk.
Student from China: “Why is everyone so upset?”
Someone asks if we can watch “a good speech to compare.” I suggest Obama’s “A More Perfect Union,” his speech about race from the 2008 campaign, we watch ten minutes of that, and then the students talk.
Someone asks for another suggestion, something different in style. We watch the last few minutes of Martin Luther King’s “I Have Been to the Mountaintop”, and then the students talk some more.
Obama and King appeal to our better angels, to history and education and inclusivity and progress. Trump, to anger and hate.
Student from California: “Other nations are laughing at us.”
Student from Russia, who is watching one of Hitler’s speeches on her laptop: “No one is laughing.”
I am exhausted. I end class early, and as I leave the room, I realize the lights are off.
We have been discussing in the dark.