Declamations, Declamations, Wherefore Art Thou?

Possibly the hardest hurtle of Declamation is the research behind finding source material.  Often, it is a task that inspires dismay and grows stress exponentially.  Do not lose composure! Step back from the situation, fill your diaphragm with air, and relax!  The hardest part of the battle is learning how to research, and once that is learned finding a piece is vastly easier.

  • Check your team's files. Most teams will have pieces archived away for someone to pick-up later.  Ask your coach for access to the team's files, locate the Declamation section, and start reading.  Be sure to return everything to where you originally found the item to avoid chaos.  Also, these pieces may have been in use once, so ask around to see how recent (to avoid repetition).
  • Talk to your History/English teacher. If you are interested in Declamation but have a limited knowledge on historic events or figures, you may find yourself at a disadvantage.  Pull out your history textbook and read up on moments in history that interest you.  Often, historical highlights will be accompanied by an excerpt from a speech that captures that occasion (read a blurb to determine if you want to find the full text).  Also, talk to your History/English teacher(s) about famous speeches to get ideas.  You might be surprised by how much knowledge a true professional will hold. 
  • Go to the library! It may be a little old school, but that is part of the charm.  Any decent non-fiction section of either your school or public library will contain hundreds of speeches you can look through.  For free!  The only charge is to make copies.  Perks of using a library include: having personal help from the librarians, being able to browse through a sea of paper, a quiet place to work, and possibly a comfy, over-sized chair to nestle in.  If you are at all worried about not knowing how to find a book, settle down and know that a librarian is always around to help.  They do not bite, promise!  This interview will further explain the bonuses of going to your local library: http://www.forensicscommunity.com/blog/interview-library-can-be-speechie...
  • Know how to peruse the Internet. The Internet can be a wonderful tool for finding material if one knows how to use it.  Search engines can be annoying when you type a word into the search bar and nothing of value appears.  What you need to realize is that multiple searches with various key words must be tried to find a handful of potential sites.  For Declamation, try phrases like "free speeches," "speech transcripts," declamation pieces," etc. to find sites.  Use specific language!  Keep in mind too that the best links might not be the first ones shown--they just are the ones that make the most hits.  Be sure to scroll down and flip through a page or two to maximize the potential of locating a worthwhile site. 
  • Look to the past. Some leagues not only list the names of past, top competitors, but also list the name of the piece they performed.  Go to your league's website and see if any Declamation pieces are listed.  Try to look for older titles to escape using a piece that just had a successful season. 
  • Original Oratory.  Some leagues allow for Declamations to be found from old Original Oratory pieces.  Rules vary.  The pros and cons do not (see here).

Prior to even beginning your Declamation Piece Adventure you should have an idea of what style of speech you wish to perform (informative, political, commencement, humorous, etc.).  You may even make a list of a few figures you admire and check their public record to unearth speeches they have delivered.  Researching with an idea is easier than starting with a blank mind.  But once your Declamation research begins, these areas to sleuth around in will help you find your piece swiftly and, hopefully, with ease.