Tonight, I had the pleasure of sitting down at OU's first Veritas Forum, hosted by a number of collaborating campus ministries and local churches. The speaker was Os Guiness—probably the single most eloquent and cogent speaker I have ever heard in person. Undoubtedly, the British accent helped his speech sound "cool" to our American ears, but the fact is, he spoke without pause for nearly an hour, without notes, in the most concise, coherent way I have ever heard.
Speaking well—rhetoric—is a lost art, sad to say. Perhaps some of us will learn it from our elders and resurrect it. Memorizing quotes and a detailed outline, and then speaking with words that carry power and persuade by being well-chosen is hard work, but well worth the cost.
One of the things that impressed me the most about Guiness' presentation was the way he very carefully addressed himself to an audience used to thinking in postmodern terms, without endorsing the terms of postmodernity. He spoke in a language that my generation would clearly understand, without for a moment compromising on the essentials of the truth. This, too, is an art largely lost to us—and I wonder if its loss is not for many of the same reasons as the loss of rhetoric?
We no longer know how to speak well because we no longer know how to think well. We know longer know how to communicate well because we no longer know how to think about others well. This, of course, has ever been a rare art—but it will only grow rarer as we cease to see its worth.