He was a quiet man. He spoke only when he was asked. He spoke only when he was compelled. During the school year, he spent most of his time studying, reading, and listening. He mostly kept to himself. Though he liked the company of others, he enjoyed having privacy. He preferred the calm seclusions of his dorm room over the lively festivities of his enthusiastic friends. When he worked with other students, he would listen, he would nod, he would answer, but he would never openly converse or discuss his thoughts. He only exhibited the necessary means of communication. Although he never spoke much, his professors and his peers thought his answers were substantial enough. It was nearing the end of the year when he was called to speak with the dean. He walked into the office and waited. It was hushed and it was silent. He enjoyed it. He didn’t say anything. He simply sat in his chair and waited. Then the dean arrived. The dean strode over to her desk and sat in her swivel chair and cleared her throat. She glanced at him for a moment with piercing eyes and smiled. From underneath her desk, she procured a thin piece of creamy folded paper, handing it over to him. He took it silently, curiously wondering what it was. He unfolded the paper. It was an outline of the procession of the graduation ceremony taking place in a week. He skimmed through the list of professors, through the majority of awards, through the roll of names, until he noticed his own. He read it. He read it again, and again. But there it was. His name, listed underneath the title of summa cum laude. He looked up with surprise. The dean looked back, humor hidden in her eyes. She nodded. He was astonished. He had made it. When she began talk, he didn’t hear a word of what she said. He was speechless. He didn’t know what to think. He didn’t know what to say. He was going to have to say a speech. He didn’t know what to say. He left the dean’s office dazed and triumphant. The week passed too quickly. He still didn’t know what he was going to say. He glanced at the clock. Only a few more hours until night would be over and graduation would begin. He picked up his pen and began to write. It would begin soon. When he briskly walked toward the podium, the thick black robe whispering about his legs and the steps of his formal leather shoes became the loudest sounds in the room. He straightened his back as he stood before the entirety of his senior peers and all of their adoring families for their graduation. He was tense. He was self-conscious. But he had made it to the top. He had made it summa cum laude. And now he had to. Reaching in his pocket, he pulled out a crumpled and folded sheet of lined notebook paper upon which he smoothed with his hands on the flat of the podium. This was his speech. These were his classmates. And this was his graduation. His eyes scanned the faces before him, catching naÃ¯ve expressions, indifferent expressions. He softly exhaled. He looked at his creased paper, looked at his scrawled writing in blue ink, looked at his nervous hands holding his speech flat. He began to speak. From the depths of his lungs poured out a magnitude of words, strung together in fluent chords with perfect intonation, perfect articulation. Words rolled off his tongue with fluidity, dripped from his lips with ease. His vocal chords trembled with intensity. He proclaimed. He declared. He expressed. He made no outwardly motion of communication, only his mouth opened to speak, only his eyes blinked to see. As he concluded, his words stroke with fervor, with fury, with vehemence. When he finished, his voice was still ringing throughout the room, the vibrations of his speech still resonating throughout the crowd. It was silent. He softly exhaled. He had said it. He knew this was the most he had ever spoken. And he meant every word he said. As lifted his eyes to scan the assembly, they widened in astonishment. It was then he grasped what he had done. It had been in the back of his mind, the notions frayed, the thoughts hazed, but now it speared through him. He had inspired. His eyes swept across the faces before him, noticing how the naÃ¯ve had become more mature, how the indifferent had become more attentive. Then there was an explosion. Cheers, claps, whistling, rooting, applauses, praises, and ovations. The moment crashed over him, washed over him. It was like a wave. The feeling was crisp and revitalizing, and yet at the same time, feverish and empowering. He swelled with pride and a smile broke across his face. His words had done it. Not only that, he had done it. He had inspired. He had motivated. He had moved. He finally did it. In that moment he realized something. He had become an eloquent man.
An Eloquent Man
October 28, 2008