BHSU Geek Speak takes closer look on how speech empowered protestors

Author: BHSU Communications/Tuesday, January 26, 2016/Categories: 2016

Dr. Adam Gaffey

Throughout history, public speaking became a tool for empowering, influencing and helping people understand things from different perspectives, and which hasn't always worked because of constraints such as lack of power or money. Therefore an idea is that sometimes people with a strong message can make a difference despite overwhelming odds.

Dr. Adam Gaffey, assistant professor of rhetoric and philosophy at Black Hills State University, will shed a light on a historical and analytical overview on agitators who have taken oratory as a form of public protest and share his perception of public speaking as empowerment.

"Public Speaking: Raising Hell" is Thursday, Jan. 28 at 4 p.m. in Jonas Hall, room 110. The event is free and open to the public.

According to Gaffey, public speaking is a constructive activity.

"When we speak in public we're trying to build up the knowledge we have together and this can be very influential," said Gaffey. "Speeches can be seen as great time capsules of what's going on in history you can get a sense of what people were valuing and what people were trying to fight up against."

In the upcoming Geek Speak, Gaffey will focus on speakers who were members of historically marginalized groups. According to Gaffey, there is always a marginalized group.

"It is kind of our condition. We have this weird set up where we understand speech is a struggle because people exist and live together and we can't have equal distribution of things, which makes the struggle ever present," he said.

"If we think of speech as empowerment as one thing, the other thing we should remember is that speech is also a side of struggle, which is ongoing" added Gaffey.

To have a better understanding of why groups are becoming marginalized we need to look at some factors that are associated with it.

"One of the obvious candidates among the many factors would be perceptions of the broader population," Gaffey said. "Somebody might be marginalized because there is a feeling of suspicion or mistrust and often times that is generated based on either past experiences or just misinformation which could be a part of larger public narrative."

In his presentation Gaffey will take a closer look at few agitators who used oratory as a form of empowerment. One is Angelina Grimke who was a very well-known abolitionist speaker in the early 1800s.

"An interesting thing about Grimke is that not only is she a woman, she is breaking that taboo, but she is also a southerner and her family had a plantation. So she opposes a threat on two levels. She is a female speaker, which is a big no-no, and she is going against the grain of what people might expect," Gaffey added.

"My sense is that a lot of people have the perception that the reason anything gets done is because powerful interests say so," Gaffey added.

He hopes that coming to his presentation might remind people of a couple of instances where that hasn't just always been the case.

Future Geek Speak topics include:
  • Feb. 4, " 'I was Real Once,' sighed Mr. Holmes: #BelieveinSherlock #FightJohnWatsonsWar," Dr. Nikki Dragone
  • Feb. 11, "The Narcissistic Doctor? Leadership, Ethics, and Dr. Who," Dr. Jeffrey Wehrung
  • Feb. 18, " 'Preaching to the Nerves Instead of the Judgment': The Victorian Sensation Novel,'" Dr. Martin Fashbaugh
  • Feb. 25, "Biblically Speaking: Sin and the Role of Women in the Christian New Testament," Dr. Amy Fuqua
  • March 3, "Draw Something!" Desy Shoenewies
  • March 17, "Not Just a Cheesy Monster Movie: the Multiple Meanings of Godzilla," Dr. Tom Arnold
  • March 31, "On Hip Hop and Religion," Dr. Dan May
  • April 7, "Can Religion and Science Get Along? Sure, but should they?" Dr. Nate Deichert
  • April 14, "A Tour of Voting Systems: How Do We Choose a Winner?" Dr. Dan Swenson
  • April 21, "The Social Life of Meat," Dr. Trenton Ellis
  • April 28, The University Honors Program Capstone Defense
For more information, contact Dr. Courtney Huse-Wika, director of the University Honors Program and assistant professor of English at 605-642-6918 or email

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