The Art of Public Speaking HTML version
RIGHT THINKING AND PERSONALITY
Whatever crushes individuality is despotism, by whatever name it may be called.
--JOHN STUART MILL, On Liberty.
Right thinking fits for complete living by developing the power to appreciate the beautiful in nature and art,
power to think the true and to will the good, power to live the life of thought, and faith, and hope, and love.
--N.C. SCHAEFFER, Thinking and Learning to Think.
The speaker's most valuable possession is personality--that indefinable, imponderable something which sums
up what we are, and makes us different from others; that distinctive force of self which operates appreciably
on those whose lives we touch. It is personality alone that makes us long for higher things. Rob us of our
sense of individual life, with its gains and losses, its duties and joys, and we grovel. "Few human creatures,"
says John Stuart Mill, "would consent to be changed into any of the lower animals for a promise of the fullest
allowance of a beast's pleasures; no intelligent human being would consent to be a fool, no instructed person
would be an ignoramus, no person of feeling and conscience would be selfish and base, even though he should
be persuaded that the fool, or the dunce, or the rascal is better satisfied with his lot than they with theirs.... It is
better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied, better to be a Socrates dissatisfied than a fool
satisfied. And if the fool or the pig is of a different opinion, it is only because they know only their own side
of the question. The other party to the comparison knows both sides."
Now it is precisely because the Socrates type of person lives on the plan of right thinking and restrained
feeling and willing that he prefers his state to that of the animal. All that a man is, all his happiness, his
sorrow, his achievements, his failures, his magnetism, his weakness, all are in an amazingly large measure the
direct results of his thinking. Thought and heart combine to produce right thinking: "As a man thinketh in his
heart so is he." As he does not think in his heart so he can never become.
Since this is true, personality can be developed and its latent powers brought out by careful cultivation. We
have long since ceased to believe that we are living in a realm of chance. So clear and exact are nature's laws
that we forecast, scores of years in advance, the appearance of a certain comet and foretell to the minute an
eclipse of the Sun. And we understand this law of cause and effect in all our material realms. We do not plant
potatoes and expect to pluck hyacinths. The law is universal: it applies to our mental powers, to morality, to
personality, quite as much as to the heavenly bodies and the grain of the fields. "Whatsoever a man soweth
that shall he also reap," and nothing else.
Character has always been regarded as one of the chief factors of the speaker's power. Cato defined the orator
as vir bonus dicendi peritus--a good man skilled in speaking. Phillips Brooks says: "Nobody can truly stand as
a utterer before the world, unless he be profoundly living and earnestly thinking." "Character," says Emerson,
"is a natural power, like light and heat, and all nature cooperates with it. The reason why we feel one man's
presence, and do not feel another's is as simple as gravity. Truth is the summit of being: justice is the
application of it to affairs. All individual natures stand in a scale, according to the purity of this element in
them. The will of the pure runs down into other natures, as water runs down from a higher into a lower vessel.
This natural force is no more to be withstood than any other natural force.... Character is nature in the highest
It is absolutely impossible for impure, bestial and selfish thoughts to blossom into loving and altruistic habits.
Thistle seeds bring forth only the thistle. Contrariwise, it is entirely impossible for continual altruistic,
sympathetic, and serviceful thoughts to bring forth a low and vicious character. Either thoughts or feelings