The rhetoric department brought history to life on Wednesday morning with reenactments of famous speeches from the individuals commorated by campus statues.
The speaking tour, entitled “Historical Figures of the Liberty Walk: Speeches of Statesmen,” was part of the chapel dedication festivities.
Nearly 200 attendees listened to students of Hillsdale College and Hillsdale Academy recite declamations from the most famous speeches of the seven figures as well as present narrative backgrounds to the excerpts. The event was initially planned as a walking tour, with the speeches delivered in the vicinity of the statues, but due to rain, the event was moved inside the gala tent.
Professor Kirsten Kiledal began working on the project last spring after she was approached by the director of the Four Pillars campaign, who pictured the event as being both a tour of campus and a walk-through of the Western tradition of statesmanship for guests on campus for the gala.
“Thematically, we want them to take away that these figures, in their own times and statesmanship, had to deal with the four pillars that are central to this campaign — faith, freedom, learning, character — and that we can see the way that is manifested in their words and in their actions,” Kiledal said.
The event opened with a poetry prelude by Ned Wyse, husband of music professor Debbi Wyse, who is recognized for his talent in poetry recitation. He talked about and recited the works of Robert Frost and Will Carleton, the purpose of which was to set a contemplative and appreciative tone for the audience to receive the rest of the speeches.
The presentation was divided into three categories: Founding (both of America and the College), Civil War, and the 20th Century. Some of the orations sampled included George Washington’s Farewell Address, Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, Winston Churchill’s “We Shall Fight on the Beaches,” and Hillsdale College’s first President Edmund Fairfield’s Cornerstone Speech.
Junior Taryn Murphy was asked to be one of the student speakers because of her participation in the Everett Oratory Competition last year. She delivered Margaret Thatcher’s address on the passing of Ronald Reagan.
“It’s a really great way to be a part of a meaningful event on campus and to share with the friends of the college why Hillsdale means so much,” Murphy said. “I’m hoping that people get to see the rich history that Hillsdale celebrates and that we still champion the values of those who came before us.”
Audience members were touched by what they saw.
“It was done with a lot of passion,” said Edward Drum, a President’s Club member visiting from Washington.
Rita Drum, who is also a President’s Club member said, “Some of the moments in history I lived through, so to hear them come alive again was amazing.”