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The Art of Public Speaking

CHAPTER XXIX
181
precede and determine all our actions. Actions develop into habits, habits constitute character, and character
determines destiny. Therefore to guard our thoughts and control our feelings is to shape our destinies. The
syllogism is complete, and old as it is it is still true.
Since "character is nature in the highest form," the development of character must proceed on natural lines.
The garden left to itself will bring forth weeds and scrawny plants, but the flower-beds nurtured carefully will
blossom into fragrance and beauty.
As the student entering college largely determines his vocation by choosing from the different courses of the
curriculum, so do we choose our characters by choosing our thoughts. We are steadily going up toward that
which we most wish for, or steadily sinking to the level of our low desires. What we secretly cherish in our
hearts is a symbol of what we shall receive. Our trains of thoughts are hurrying us on to our destiny. When
you see the flag fluttering to the South, you know the wind is coming from the North. When you see the
straws and papers being carried to the Northward you realize the wind is blowing out of the South. It is just as
easy to ascertain a man's thoughts by observing the tendency of his character.
Let it not be suspected for one moment that all this is merely a preachment on the question of morals. It is
that, but much more, for it touches the whole man--his imaginative nature, his ability to control his feelings,
the mastery of his thinking faculties, and--perhaps most largely--his power to will and to carry his volitions
into effective action.
Right thinking constantly assumes that the will sits enthroned to execute the dictates of mind, conscience and
heart. Never tolerate for an instant the suggestion that your will is not absolutely efficient. The way to will is
to will--and the very first time you are tempted to break a worthy resolution--and you will be, you may be
certain of that--make your fight then and there. You cannot afford to lose that fight. You must win it--don't
swerve for an instant, but keep that resolution if it kills you. It will not, but you must fight just as though life
depended on the victory; and indeed your personality may actually lie in the balances!
Your success or failure as a speaker will be determined very largely by your thoughts and your mental
attitude. The present writer had a student of limited education enter one of his classes in public speaking. He
proved to be a very poor speaker; and the instructor could conscientiously do little but point out faults.
However, the young man was warned not to be discouraged. With sorrow in his voice and the essence of
earnestness beaming from his eyes, he replied: "I will not be discouraged! I want so badly to know how to
speak!" It was warm, human, and from the very heart. And he did keep on trying--and developed into a
creditable speaker.
There is no power under the stars that can defeat a man with that attitude. He who down in the deeps of his
heart earnestly longs to get facility in speaking, and is willing to make the sacrifices necessary, will reach his
goal. "Ask and ye shall receive; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you," is indeed
applicable to those who would acquire speech-power. You will not realize the prize that you wish for
languidly, but the goal that you start out to attain with the spirit of the old guard that dies but never surrenders,
you will surely reach.
Your belief in your ability and your willingness to make sacrifices for that belief, are the double index to your
future achievements. Lincoln had a dream of his possibilities as a speaker. He transmuted that dream into life
solely because he walked many miles to borrow books which he read by the log-fire glow at night. He
sacrificed much to realize his vision. Livingstone had a great faith in his ability to serve the benighted races of
Africa. To actualize that faith he gave up all. Leaving England for the interior of the Dark Continent he struck
the death blow to Europe's profits from the slave trade. Joan of Arc had great self-confidence, glorified by an
infinite capacity for sacrifice. She drove the English beyond the Loire, and stood beside Charles while he was
crowned.
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