8.1 Truthful Oratory -- Or What Our Speakers Ought to Say
TRUTHFUL SPEECH GIVING THE REAL THOUGHTS OF A DISTINGUISHED GUEST AT THE FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY BANQUET OF A SOCIETY
Mr. Chairman and gentlemen: If there is one thing I abominate more than another, it is turning out on a cold night like this to eat a huge dinner of twelve courses and know that I have to make a speech on top of it. Gentlemen, I just feel stuffed. That’s the plain truth of it. By the time we had finished that fish, I could have gone home satisfied. Honestly I could. That’s as much as I usually eat. And by the time I had finished the rest of the food, I felt simply waterlogged, and I do still. More than that. The knowledge that I had to make a speech congratulating this society of yours on its fiftieth anniversary haunted and racked me all through the meal. I am not, in plain truth, the ready and brilliant speaker you take me for. That is a pure myth. If you could see the desperate home scene that goes on in my family when I am working up a speech, your minds would be at rest on that point.
I’ll go further and be very frank with you. How this society has lived for fifty years, I don’t know. If all your dinners are like this, Heaven help you. I’ve only the vaguest idea of what this society is, anyway, and what it does. I tried to get a constitution this afternoon but failed. I am sure from some of the faces that I recognise around this table that there must be good business reasons of some sort for belonging to this society. There’s money in it,—mark my words,—for some of you or you wouldn’t be here. Of course I quite understand that the President and the officials seated here beside me come merely for the self-importance of it. That, gentlemen, is about their size. I realized that from their talk during the banquet. I don’t want to speak bitterly, but the truth is they are SMALL men and it flatters them to sit here with two or three blue ribbons pinned on their coats. But as for me, I’m done with it. It will be fifty years, please heaven, before this event comes round again. I hope, I earnestly hope, that I shall be safely under the ground.