Do You Believe

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  • Topic: Dallas, Keynote, 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote address
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Speaker Dalton Sherman
Title Do you believe?
Venue Dallas Independent School District Teachers Conference Notable Elements 10-year-old 5th grader Dalton Sherman delivers an inspirational speech to 20,000 teachers about the importance of believing in each other.

How can you inspire your audience? Ask 10-year-old Dalton Sherman.

by Andrew Dlugan
Nov 6th, 2008

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Is fifth grader Dalton Sherman the next Barack Obama?
Of course, it’s far too early to tell, but that’s how he refers to himself in an interview on the Ellen show, where my wife first saw this extraordinary young man who can teach us all something about inspirational speaking.

This article reviews the keynote address at the Dallas Independent School District (D.I.S.D.) Teachers’ Conference delivered by a 5th grade student: 10-year-old Dalton Sherman from Charles Rice Learning Center.

This article is the latest in a series of video speech critiques which help you analyze and learn from excellent speeches.

View Dalton Sherman Speech Video

I encourage you to:

1. Watch the video;
2. Read the analysis in this speech critique; and
3. Share your thoughts on this presentation.

Speech Critique — Dalton Sherman

This speech is remarkable for many reasons, including:

▪ Repetition of signature phrases
▪ Connecting personally with audience members
▪ Vocal variety which signals key statements
▪ Humor throughout
▪ The rule of three

These areas are discussed in the speech critique below.

Repetitive Refrain – “Do You Believe…”
Dalton repeats the signature phrase 11 times during his keynote speech. [Note that numbers in brackets refer to the time in the speech.] These lines emphasize the central theme that teachers and students need to believe in each other. 1. “Do you believe in me?” [0:43]

2. “Do you believe that I can stand up here fearless and talk to over 20,000 of you?” [0:51] 3. “Do you believe in me?” [1:12]
4. “Do you believe in my classmates?” [2:05]
5. “Do you believe that every single one of us can graduate ready for college or the workplace?” [2:15] 6. “Do you believe in your colleagues?” [4:32]
7. “Do you believe in yourself?” [5:50]
8. “Do you believe that what you’re doing is shaping not just my generation, but that of my children and my children’s children?” [6:01] 9. “Do you believe that every child in Dallas needs to be ready for college or the workplace?” [6:40] 10. “Do you believe that Dallas students can achieve?” [6:50] 11. “Do you believe in me?” [7:45]

On many occasions, this phrase follows a pause in delivery. By doing this, the repeated refrain also bookmarks the major divisions of the speech (the students, your colleagues, yourself, then back to students). This 4-part structure is highlighted in one of the lines near the end of the speech: ▪ “We need you to believe (1) in us, (2) in your colleagues, (3) in yourselves, and (4) in our goals.” [7:10]

More and More Repetition

Sherman uses other repetitive figures of speech. Among these, here are two of the most powerful:

▪ “I can do anything…
be anything …
create anything …
dream anything …
become anything …
because you believe in me.” [1:28]
▪ “We need you” is repeated five separate times in the speech, making this a secondary theme (along with “Do you believe?”). [5:47, 6:34, 6:58, 7:02, 7:10]

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Make it Personal

Sherman makes the speech personal by calling out specific groups within the massive audience. On every instance, his reference draws applause from that segment of the audience.

▪ Early in the speech, Dalton calls out personnel from his own school, Charles Rice Learning Center. [1:10] ▪ “Let me ask you a question, Dallas I.S.D.” (Dallas Independent School District) [1:55] ▪ He refers to several large geographic regions: Sunnyside Dallas [3:10], Pleasant Grove [3:20], Oak Cliff [3:25], North Dallas [3:35], West Dallas [3:38] ▪ Finally, he refers to the different educational roles in sequence. Nearly...
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