Speeches of Conviction Continue Under New Leadership


Lucy Gund '19

Mrs. Bannard teaching Public Speaking.

Although Speeches of Conviction are the main projects of the winter and spring Public Speaking elective, they have become much more than a term grade: on the night of the speeches, the long line of eager audience members snakes outside of the Campbell Performing Arts Center (CPAC), and the Black Box is filled to the brim with students, teachers, and parents. Speakers deliver Speeches of Conviction on topics they have a strong belief about, covering everything from cyberbullying to racial identity. 

Before their Speeches of Conviction, speakers first participate in the Public Speaking class, practicing command of voice, tempo, gesture, and body language  in order to give four speeches: two speeches given by famous historical and contemporary influencers and two of their own. The first speech is instructional, explaining how to do something, but the second is their Speech of Conviction.  As Speeches of Conviction are given in the Black Box, students often give a more personal speech than they might be able to on the main stage of the CPAC.This year, there is one major change to the elective and event: Mary Frances Bannard will be teaching it for the first time.

Director of Theater Laurie Sales previously taught the class, but as she is currently on sabbatical, Mrs. Bannard is taking over. Mrs. Bannard was surprised that Ms. Sales asked her to lead the class, but she was excited to take on this new project, especially because conducting a public speaking class would be a professional stretch in her career as a Latin teacher. She enjoys new challenges and welcomes change.

Mrs. Bannard has been preparing for the class in several ways. She sat in on and observed the classes last year, speaking extensively with Ms. Sales about how the class will work this year. Though she can not perfectly replicate the class, she is working hard to keep it similar.  For instance, Lucy Gund ‘19, a current member of her public speaking class, said they used enunciation exercises that she remembers Ms. Sales teaching them for warm ups for Cabaret, the winter musical last year. Lucy loves how “the class still has a little taste of Ms. Sales in it.”

However, Mrs. Bannard is making a few small changes to the class. For example, she is adding yoga exercises because she says that “a lot about public speaking is about getting your body and voice to work together.” She also said that she is asking her students “to be really mindful of the ways people speak publicly on campus and pay attention to Chapel Talks and the way people present themselves in class.” Lastly, while Ms. Sales led breathing exercises last year, Mrs. Bannard is putting a larger emphasis on them. Mrs. Bannard is also excited about being able to teach this class in the spring again, as she will be able to tweak it, saying that when she teaches a class multiple times, it is never quite the same.

Lucy was drawn to the class by the Speeches of Conviction she had heard and her brother Owen Gund ‘19, who took it last year. She said she is looking forward to learning how to capture the attention of a room as speakers before her have. She also noted that her brother loved how close his class became, and she cannot wait for that to happen in her own. While Lucy believes a lot of students will appreciate how Mrs. Bannard is trying to mimic Ms. Sales’ teaching style, she also likes Mrs. Bannard’s yoga addition, saying that it is really nice for the mornings.

Mrs. Bannard, who always enjoyed the speeches herself, believes that the class is very important to many students’ Groton experience: “it’s a class [Laurie Sales] holds very dear and I am trying my best to honor her. This class is important to many people so I’m really doing my best to carry that on.”