By Ryan Ryu ’25
The Junior Speech at The Frederick Gunn School represents a significant milestone in our students’ journey. It’s a tradition that holds immense importance, where every student has the opportunity to address the entire school community consisting of 400 students and faculty members.
Stepping up to the podium in the Tisch Family Auditorium is a moment of courage and self-expression. Students embark on The Declaration during their Junior year, the third installment in our four-year Citizenship Curriculum. The preceding two years encourage introspection, helping students contemplate their values, choices, and life aspirations, ultimately setting concrete goals. The third course, The Declaration, equips students with invaluable communication skills, reaching its pinnacle with the delivery of their heartfelt speeches. This moment empowers our students to voice their passions and stand up for what they believe in.
The Director of Citizenship and Just Democracy, Mr. McMann, discussed the evolution of the junior speech over the last decade. “The Junior Speech has been a longstanding component of Gunn’s curriculum. When tasked with developing a Citizenship Curriculum for the Center for Citizenship and Just Democracy, I chose to retain the Junior Speech course, which we named “The Declaration.” This program begins by examining the Declaration of Independence and the fundamental principles upon which our nation was founded. We then encourage students to reflect on the values they intend to shape their lives around and the narratives they wish to share with their community to illustrate these values. Ultimately, our goal is for this speech to serve as a symbolic commitment to a hopeful future. We want students to transition courageously and confidently into young adulthood, embracing the responsibility and aspiration to become active, positive citizens.”
Students are enrolled in one of three unique Public Speaking courses, each led by Mr. McMann, Mr. Low, or Mr. Burnham, during the fall, winter, or spring terms. In these dynamic classes, students delve into the art of persuasive communication, mastering the elements of the rhetorical triangle—ethos, logos, and pathos—as well as the power of the ‘rule of three.’ The curriculum strengthens their public speaking skills and challenges them with various engaging activities. These activities include delivering concise 30-second self-introduction speeches, crafting persuasive impromptu speeches, and refining their persuasive prowess in well-structured persuasive speeches. Furthermore, students have the opportunity to draft and refine their speeches, culminating in captivating presentations delivered in front of their classmates in the school’s auditorium.
The Junior Speech at The Frederick Gunn School is not merely an academic exercise but a transformative experience that shapes the future of our students. It’s a rite of passage that instills courage, fosters self-expression, and enables them to articulate their values and beliefs before their peers and mentors. As they embark on The Declaration, these young minds refine their communication skills, embracing the responsibility of becoming active, positive citizens. The Junior Speech is more than a tradition; it’s a pledge to stand up for what they believe in and make their voices heard, setting the stage for a promising journey into young adulthood.