Speech Club Speaks Out

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking,” said comedian Jerry Seinfeld. “Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

Speech Club -2Centralia College Communications Professor Jeff McQuarrie concurs. “Seventy percent of my students are terrified of public speaking when they start my class,” he said.

Slowly, they overcome their fear but even then, “it’s like alcoholism,” McQuarrie said. “You never get rid of it; you just keep it managed.”

Under McQuarrie’s guidance, Centralia College Speech Club is managing that fear, practicing their public speaking skills and entertaining local senior citizens – all at the same time. The club gives quarterly presentations at Centralia’s Colonial Residence at Cooks Hill. This quarter’s theme? “My freaky culture.”

Don’t worry – it’s not as risqué as it sounds.

Speech Club -3During the April 18 presentation, Speech Club members shared why their family cultures were odd or different. It’s an extension of an activity McQuarrie uses to help loosen his class up in the beginning of the term. Instead of performing speeches with intimidating topics right off the bat, they compete against each other to see who comes from the weirdest family. After all, everyone thinks their family’s the weirdest. This exercise, McQuarrie said, keeps students focused on the competition instead of their fear.

The Speech Club’s presentation was highly entertaining. Club Special Events Coordinator Paul Croft chose to eschew the focus on family and focus on his chosen culture: his faith and pastors.

He discussed his pastors’ various positive qualities and funny quirks – like one’s obsessive love of Taco Bell – with sincerity and a good dose of humor. “You can’t choose your family,” Croft said, “but you can choose your friends and my mentors are my best friends.”

Lisa Chapman discussed her farm family’s habit of discussing recently-harvested animals over the dinner table – often in front of company. She also shared their unique take on holiday traditions. They’ve had everything from dead branches to a full scotch broom bush in lieu of a Christmas tree. They also like to send their markedly accomplished children off with strange encouragement: “Don’t disgrace us!”

Club Treasurer Miles Wiley shared his father’s tendency to overpack for camping trips. Once, he brought a whole picnic table in the back of his truck. When Wiley asked him about this strange habit, he said he wanted his kids to like camping so much, they’d always want to go with him – a heartwarming sentiment. Wiley also shared his family’s love of music and even closed his speech by leading the crowd in a touching rendition of Amazing Grace.

Cheyenne Meyer’s family is unique in their sheer physicality. The whole clan loves to wrestle, as does Meyer, who does so competitively. She even placed sixth in state this year. Meyer said her family are more likely to greet each other with a tackle than a hug. She also shared their hippie side, citing the time she spent an entire day in town without shoes.

McQuarrie closed the session with a speech about his wife. She laughed along good-naturedly as he discussed her personal quirks like a fear of flying and a penchant for living out of her truck. He closed by expressing his deep love and loyalty – which is, after all, what family’s all about.

The Colonial Residence crowd – some as old as 100 – found the experience both entertaining and engaging. While no one stepped up to vie for the title of strangest family, they each affectionately remember their own kooky clans.

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