Soapbox speeches

Brianna Stapleton

Have you noticed groups of people gathering near the east end of Main Hall after class? No, they’re not loitering; they might be there for the Speeches on Main Hall Green series. The speeches, which focus on a range of topics, are given by Lawrence students at 12:25 on Mondays and Wednesdays.
These “soapbox speeches” are scheduled at a time when many students exit their Freshman Studies classes and head to lunch, so an audience is always readily available. There are about 10 regular “soapbox” fans that come for every speech, and an average speech usually attracts around 20 audience members. Though the weather is getting colder, many students willingly put on their hats and mittens and listen to what others have to say.
Sophomores Mark Johnson and Eric Prichard, the organizers, are regular speakers, but other students are encouraged to give speeches as well. Johnson is also hoping to bring sign-up sheets to upcoming speeches. Speech topics range from “Dinosaurs vs. Robots” to bicycles or advertising techniques. Controversial themes are also encouraged.
Johnson says that he started the event because he enjoys the format of speeches and having a forum for expressing opinions. “If people in the audience disagree with what you’re saying, it’s a time to see that you are not defined by your opinions and to try to understand where they are coming from,” Johnson says. “If everybody agrees with you then it’s a time to feel connected to these people and get them excited about what you’re passionate about. You can’t lose.”
Eric Prichard, who spoke earlier this fall on dishonesty in our political system, likes the soapbox speeches because anyone can participate. “It’s completely open,” he commented. “It’s not a specific student organization or group of friends doing it, because anyone can speak about anything and people will listen.”
The soapbox speeches have been around since third term of last year. With increasing audiences and more interested students, they are becoming a hit. Due to this, many students hope that they will persist and become a campus tradition. The speeches are a great way to hear fellow students’ opinions on current issues and can give students something interesting to talk about over lunch at Downer or Lucinda’s. Next time you hear someone speaking in front of Main Hall, take the time to listen and see what the speeches are all about.
If interested, students should e-mail Mark Johnson for an assigned time slot for a speech. Look out for coverage of individual speeches in these pages in the weeks to come.