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WAYNE, Neb. -- Check out any social media site and you might reach the conclusion that no one is shy about sharing an opinion.

The likes of Twitter and Facebook are filled with comments about the big issues of the day or things much more insignificant.

But ask someone to actually stand up in public and speak, giving a real voice and face to that opinion? Most people would probably opt to remain cloaked in the anonymity of posting a message online.

On Monday, a number of Wayne State College students grabbed a microphone in the Kanter Student Center and shared what they thought about topics great and small in observance of World Speech Day, a three-year-old international observance aimed at celebrating speeches and speech-making and their ability to cause change.

"It's great that we can get out and express what we want to. I think this event is great for college campuses. It's a way for students to come out and have their voices heard," said Cortney Reuter, a junior from Martinsburg, Nebraska, who talked about why books are better than movies.

Reuter was one of many members of Teresa Morales' persuasion class to speak at the event. An assistant communication professor, Morales had students take part in the inaugural World Speech Day in 2016 at the Oklahoma college where she was teaching. Since coming to Wayne State last year, Morales has continued to encourage students to take part.

Morales sees public speaking as a way to encourage people to not only speak out, but to listen to another person's opinion and engage in a discussion.

"People are afraid to speak up nowadays," Morales said. "We're afraid to step on people's toes if they don't like what we think."

According to the World Speech Day website, events in more than 90 countries will involve people of all ages. The day, created by an English speech writer and novelist, is observed on March 15. Morales chose to have Wayne State's event a few days early in conjunction with the Undergraduate Communication Research Conference taking place on campus.

Monday's speakers hit on topics serious -- Why President Trump's upcoming meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is a good thing -- to the not-so-serious -- Why you shouldn't take cats for a walk. Some of the students read from note cards or a transcript; a couple decided to wing it, not deciding on a topic until they stood up to speak.

One of the more enthusiastic speakers, Reuter's continual hand motions added emphasis to her points.

"I love public speaking," she would later say.

Other members of Morales' class who were required to speak Monday seemed a little less at ease, giving a huge sigh of relief when finished. Austin Gubbels, a senior from Randolph, Nebraska, volunteered to go first, speaking on why college athletes should be paid. His calm delivery hid any trepidation he might have had about speaking in front of classmates and strangers.

"It wasn't as bad once I got talking and got it over with," Gubbels said.

Students passing by gave a few curious glances toward those who were speaking, but none of them accepted Morales' invitation to stand up and speak.

Morales seemed unfazed by those who were unwilling to speak. To hear what those who did speak had to say was more important.

"It's really hard for students to speak out," she said.

Days like World Speech Day hopefully will encourage more people to say something, anything, if it will get more public dialogue flowing. Today's world could use more public discussions, Morales said, especially among its younger people.

"We've taught an entire generation how not to engage," she said.

For a few minutes at a time Monday, students shared their opinions. Once finished speaking, a few carried on a discussion of their topic with classmates.

There were no fights, no immediate dismissals of differing opinions as stupid or misinformed, as one might see on Twitter.

Everyone's got something to say. World Speech Day might help people once again politely listen to what's being said.


Court reporter

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