Don't miss the Informative Speech Spotlight featuring talented Cheyenne East Speech and Debate competitor, Ella Goodman.
Ella Goodman is a sophomore competitor for East this year, but last year was her first year of Speech and Debate. It was a pretty historic first year for (then freshman) Ella, who captured the Wyoming State Championship and qualified for Nationals with her first Informative Speech. We are featuring her speech - "Six Feet Under" - on the Informative Speech Spotlight.
A quick word about how a coach or competitor could possibly use these speech spotlight episodes. First, enjoy a fabulous speech. The speech spotlight is another opportunity for students to share their unique and powerful voice to an audience in an audio format. Second, consider how you might use this speech as a model for students who are looking to write and perform their own informative speeches. Third, these speeches could be excellent learning tools for coaches and competitors. Actively reflecting on what makes a speech powerful, effective, or even flawed can help coaches and competitors add more tools and ideas to their own speaking toolboxes.
Here is Ella's Speech:
Six Feet Under by Ella Goodman
One time in sixth grade, we mummified chickens. Yes, you heard me right. We actually mummified chickens. Our teacher went to the store, bought some chickens, and brought them back to class. We ripped out their insides, put powder in them, and then wrapped them up in bandages. Then, a kid in our class named Kolbe took all the chickens back to his house and buried them in his backyard. He literally turned his backyard into a cemetery. A mummy-chicken cemetery. And ever since then, I’ve been thinking, what exactly happens to something after it dies? And I’m not talking about the afterlife. I mean the body, six feet under. Ever since people have been dying, which has been happening since, like, forever, people have had to deal with the dead. And with the pandemic, many cities have been overwhelmed to the point where they tragically need to build mass grave sites. Although it sounds dark, it’s never been more important to think about how we deal with the dead. Today we are going to dig up the history of the dead, uncover how we are currently dealing with the rising body count, and finally pay our respects to the future solutions of this age-old problem.
Those chickens stayed buried in Kolbe’s backyard for a whole year, until we dug them up and unwrapped them. And they looked the exact same as the day our teacher brought them back to class. What I didn’t realize at the time is we used the same process the Egyptians used over 5,000 years ago. According to the Smithsonian, the Egyptians process took around 70 days to complete. I can’t even stick with a Netflix show for that long. During the mummification process, all the person’s guts and internal organs were scooped out leaving only the heart, kind of like the Tin Man at the end of the Wizard of Oz but way creepier. To remove the brain, a long hook-like stick was stuck up the nose to slowly pull chunks of the brain out. But mummification was very time consuming... and gross. So, the Romans adapted an easier option: inhumation or burying a body intact. Most Romans buried their dead on the outskirts of town to prevent the spread of disease. But as time went on, room outside the city filled up quickly and people started burying their dead on the side of the road or even in their backyards (yeah like our mummy chickens). So, catacombs were created. Catacombs were essentially underground graveyards connected by small damp passageways with barely any light. This solution lasted until humanity faced a much bigger problem: The Black Death. This deadly pandemic spanning the medieval era killed over two-thirds of the European population. Now, they weren’t exactly medical experts at this time, so sometimes they would confuse dead people with people who were just unconscious and accidentally bury them alive. We know this because coffins would be dug up and there would be scratch marks on the inside of them, almost as if someone was trying to claw their way out. Kind of like me after my fourth zoom call of the day. To save people who were buried alive, ropes would be tied around a persons’ wrist and connected to a bell above ground before they were buried, so if they pulled the rope the bell would ring. Someone would patrol the cemetery all night, and if they heard a bell ringing, they would locate the persons’ coffin and dig them up, thus the saying “saved by the bell”. But according to the BBC, as the black death worsened, hundreds of bodies would be carelessly thrown into pits and buried without a ceremony or even preparation. These were real people with families that didn’t even get to say goodbye.
I’m in high school now and I often wonder, what happened to those chickens? I mean, we dug them up, unwrapped them, and just gave them back to our teacher. She could have done anything with them. Like today, we can turn cremation ashes into an actual diamond if we put enough heat and pressure on them. Imagine how much pressure it would take to turn a dead body into a diamond. It’s about half of the pressure I’m under in my AP Human Geography class. Or, you can have a space burial. This is when your ashes are shot into space after you die. This might be the option for me. I mean, my mom always told me to shoot for the stars. You can also take the tattoos of your dead family members and hang their skin on your wall like a painting. Hey, modern art at its finest. Although there are many new ways to deal with the dead, inhumation is still the most popular option. But we are running out of room to bury people. Cemeteries are literally overflowing with dead bodies. Japan may have a solution to this problem though: skyscraper cemeteries. I know I sound crazy, but just hear me out. These buildings are not only a huge step up in the world's cemetery game, but also the perfect place for a zombie apocalypse movie. But seriously, these skyscrapers can hold thousands of bodies. According to Kikuo Kimura, these high-rise cemeteries are “the wave of the future”. Or, should I say “grave” of the future. But will these inventions be enough to store all the bodies there are today? Covid-19 has tragically killed nearly three million people, and the world is struggling to keep up with the rising body count. In Italy, caskets pile up in churches since funerals are now illegal. Families don’t even get the chance to say goodbye to their loved ones. In England, death rates rise by 160% in just a week. As a result, warehouses and even airports are being made into temporary morgues. And in New York, hospitals overflow with dead people as one New Yorker dies every two minutes. According to the New York Times, a whole island has even been dedicated to storing thousands of unclaimed bodies. Patrick Kearns, a funeral director in New York, says “The death rate is just so high, there’s no way we can bury or cremate them fast enough”.
It’s been so sad recently, and trust me I never thought I’d say this, but I long for the innocent elementary school days of mummy chickens. But it’s still better to be a human than a chicken because as time goes on, modern solutions for dealing with the dead are being created such as cryogenics. During the cryogenic process, people are put in a freezer full of liquid nitrogen to prevent their body from decaying so that if death ever becomes reversible, they could be revived. However, this process is insanely expensive and is really just a way for rich people to turn themselves into a popsicle. So, why turn yourself into a frozen dessert when you can become compost? That’s right, you can literally become garden soil. Washington is officially the first of the fifty U.S. states to make it legal to turn dead bodies into compost. This will not only help us deal with the many bodies the world is struggling to get rid of, but also improve the environment. Although this option is good for the Earth, you must be willing to pay over 5,000 dollars if you wish to be turned to compost. But not to worry, because scientists have possibly come up with the best way to deal with the dead yet: bio urns. These urns are made of 100% biodegradable materials that turn you into a tree after you die. Your ashes are simply placed in the urn along with a seed, and then buried. And after a few years, you can grow into almost any kind of tree you can imagine. These bio urns would not only help us deal with the rising body count caused by the pandemic, but also assist us in solving the deforestation problem the world is currently facing. Bio urns can cost as little as 50 dollars, which is totally worth it considering the massive boost you are giving the environment. Although it sounds strange, dealing with the dead in environmentally friendly ways could potentially save our planet.
Mummifying chickens may seem crazy, but it is nothing compared to how we are currently dealing with the dead. Today we dug deep into the history of dealing with the dead, uncovered how we are currently handling the rising body count, before finally talking about some solutions to this problem that could possibly save our planet. Dealing with the dead may appear to be dark, but it has never been more essential to discuss, especially when it could be the solution to so many of our problems. And as we begin to contemplate when we will be six feet under, we need to remember what Haruki Murakami said, “Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it”.
Ella Goodman, “Six Feet Under” Informative Video link: https://youtu.be/uidEIlCPSVg
Look for two upcoming One Clap episodes that will be adjacent to Ella's speech: 1) an analysis episode from Cheyenne East Head Speech and Debate Coach and friend of the podcast Marcus Viney breaking down what made "Six Feet Under" a successful and compelling informative speech and 2) an interview with Ella in which she gives about her take on informative speaking and the world of Speech and Debate.
Thanks so much to Ella Goodman for sharing her informative speech. I highly recommend checking out the link to her performance on youtube to see her visual aids and delivery.
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