“We Are Virginia Tech”
Speaking is form of art that can either be a natural gift or a practiced talent. Much like there are several different ways a person can draw: cartooning, free hand, or realistic, there are many ways in which a person can speak. Nikki Giovanni’s speech “We Are Virginia Tech” makes people cry, rejoice, and move on. A speech is one form of art that can evoke these types of emotions from people.
In Nikki Giovanni’s poem “We Are Virginia Tech,” which was spoken at a memorial ceremony for Virginia Tech shooting victims, she uses her tone and a repetition of words to make her speech very powerful. The tone of her voice is very distinct, she speaks with poise and confidence, while remaining remorseful but positive about Virginia Tech’s future. At the beginning of her speech Giovanni says, “We are Virginia Tech. We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly; we are brave enough to bend to cry and sad enough to know we must laugh again. We are Virginia Tech” (We Are Virginia Tech speech). Giovanni is trying to show the audience that they can move on while still mourning the loss of their fellow Hokies. Her word choice and type of voice she uses will dictate how the audience responds to her speech. Guenna Mckee said, “there is the art of delivery and the art of persuasiveness.” Giovanni delivers this speech with such confidence and passion that the audience is left with no choice but to connect with her. This connection does not come because of Giovanni’s word choice, it comes from being able to connect empathetically with her because of the form in which she presents her speech
Nikki Giovanni’s passion for the Hokie nation was most seen in her repetition of the words “We Are Virginia Tech.” This forces them to focus on how they are Virginia Tech, and because of that they can overcome this tragedy. Sergey Suschi said how he thought that, “her words came and went very quickly and you were not left with time to interpret them, she tells you directly what to think.” The quick pace and repetition of words is part of the artistry involved in speaking. This comes from her ability to understand what the audience needs to hear in order to, and in a way, manipulate the audience into believing in themselves again. Susan Sontag says in her essay, “Against Interpretation”, “it is possible to elude the interpreters in another way, by making works of art whose surface is so unified and clean, whose momentum is so rapid, whose address is so direct that the work can be...just what it is”(Sontag 762). Sontag talks about a rapid pace, and a direct purpose which are both clearly seen in Giovanni’s speech. Giovanni says, “We know we did nothing to deserve it, but neither does the child in Africa dying of AIDS; neither do the invisible children walking the night away to avoid being captured by a rogue army” (We Are Virginia Tech speech). These words come at a rapid pace, but still manage to leave you with these images of other horrific misfortunes going on around the world.
Sontag tells us how “the work can be...just what it is,” but I believe there was some form of interpretation going on while this speech was happening. Interpreting this poem is very unique to each individual in the audience. The mental images that Giovanni gives us allow each person in the audience to form their own picture. The mental images I form in my head, and how I found myself repeating “We Are Virginia Tech” even after the video had ended is part of the artistry in effect here. Giovanni is like a painter in a way. Her words combined with the passion in which she says them paints pictures in our minds. The pictures I see in my head may not be what she intended for me to see, or it may be spot on, but either way that is part of the interpretation in it. Giovanni says, “neither does a Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder...
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