From speeches by ancient historians to those given by modern U.S. presidents, you can find a wealth of possible declamation pieces through online speech banks and anthologies of famous speeches. Many online resources feature audio and video of the original speeches to help you understand the power behind the original speech.
What Is a Declamation Piece?
A declamation piece is a speech that was originally given by a well-known orator. Declamation speeches originated in ancient Greece as a way for people to practice public speaking skills, and they have now evolved into a common practice for high school students as a way to learn how to give oral presentations and improve speaking skills. The National Catholic Forensic League has a yearly public speaking event where students compete and give their declamations. The competition is for students in grades nine or ten and the pieces cannot be more than ten minutes long. Many students choose famous speeches and literary works for their declamation piece, with the idea being to recite the speech with the same power and authority as the original speaker. The speech should be memorized and conveyed in a way that is memorable, although not acted out. The speech should also be spoken in a way that is subtle and detached, not dramatic.
Speeches to Choose From
Here are some interesting speeches that would be appropriate for a declamation piece for high school:
- I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King
- On the Pulse of Morning by Maya Angelo
- The Face Upon the Floor by Hugh Antoine d'Arcy
- Vengeance Is Not Ours, It's Gods, author unknown
- I've Been Stood Up on My Wedding Day by M.C. Espina
- The Poor Man and the Rich Man by The Brothers Grimm
- Land of Bondage, Land of the Free by Raul Manglapus
- Oh Captain, My Captain by Walt Whitman
More Online Resources for Speeches
Here are some additional websites that will help with choosing a speech:
- American Rhetoric has hundreds of speeches from American history and suggestions on how to improve speaking ability.
- Gift of Speech has famous speeches by women.
- Greek Library Online has speeches by ancient Greeks.
- Famous Speeches has a collection of famous speeches by influential people in history.
- View past speech titles given by the National Forensic League members.
How to Choose Your Declamation Piece
There are hundreds of speeches that could work as a declamation for high school students who are involved in speech, debate, or forensics. Here are some tips on choosing a great speech and theme:
- Focus on speeches that utilize masterful and eloquent language.
- Search for speeches with themes or topics you can relate to in order to help you better capture the emotion.
- Choose a speech you understand.
- Use a political or historical speech given by an important figure, such as a president, author or religious leader.
- Choose a speech with a great message.
- Choose a religious sermon or eulogy.
- Use poetry, narrative works, or folk tales.
- Use a recent speech from a current event.
Giving Your Declamation Piece
Remember too that practice makes perfect. Listen to your speech several times before you have to deliver it. Try to deliver it in such a way as to invoke emotion in your audience. Think about how the speech communicates the key ideas to the audience. Once you've practiced several times, you are ready.