Toasts and Forms of Public Address

The serious part of the discourse was a rapid statement of the principles represented by the Dutch pioneer ship “Half Moon” and the Pilgrim “Mayflower;” the elements of each contributed to national character and progress. (For speech in full see _Depew’s Speeches_, Vol. I.)

Other toasts and responses followed; eloquence and humor mingled until the small hours of the night. Probably not one of that pleased and brilliant assemblage for a moment thought that they were doing at this anniversary what their old, barbaric ancestors did nightly, while resting after a border foray or Viking sea raid.


No matter how inexperienced a speaker may be or how stammering his utterance, if he can tell a good story, the average dinner party will pronounce him a success, and he will be able to resume his seat with a feeling of satisfaction. The efforts often made to bring in an entertaining story or a lively anecdote are sometimes quite amusing, but if they come in naturally the effect will unquestionably be happy. Almost any story, by using a little skill, can be adapted to nearly every occasion that may arise. We may mention a few among which a speaker can scarcely fail to find something to serve his purpose.

It is necessary always to be thoroughly familiar with the story and to understand its exact point. No matter how deliberately or with what difficulty you approach that part of your speech where the fun is to be introduced–yet, when that point _is_ reached there must be no hesitation. It is well to memorize carefully the very words which express the pun, or the flash of wit or humor which is the climax of the story. The story itself may be found in such a manual as this, or in some volume of wit and humor.

There is no disadvantage in using wit gathered from any source, if it has not been so often used as to be completely worn out. When a good story is found anywhere and fully memorized and all its bearings and fine points thoroughly understood, there are two ways of getting it before an audience. The direct way is to say frankly that you have read a story and will tell it. This will answer very nicely when called upon for a speech. Few festive audiences are unwilling to accept a story for a speech, and a proposal to compromise on such terms is very likely in itself to bring applause. But the story in this case should be longer than if it is given as part of a speech. If, however, it should prove a failure, your performance will make a worse impression than when a poor story is introduced into a speech, although the story may only feebly illustrate any portion of it.

For these as well as other reasons most persons will prefer to make an address, even if it be very brief, and will endeavor to make the story fit into it. All stories that suggest diffidence, modesty, backwardness, or unwillingness to undertake great things, can be introduced to show how reluctant the speaker is to attempt a speech, and if these characteristics are only slightly referred to in the story it may still be used effectively and will leave a favorable impression.

If a topic, a toast, or a sentiment is given for a response, any of them may suggest a story; and after a good story has been told–one that has real point–it will be better to stop without making any attempt at application or explanation.

A great help is often found in the utterances of previous speakers. If these have done well, they may be complimented, and the compliment so contrived as to lead directly up to the story that is lying in wait; or something being said with which you heartily agree–however slight a portion of the address it may be–this harmony of views can be used in the same manner. On the other hand, if you disagree with any of the speakers, the mere reference to it will excite a lively interest. If this difference is used, not as the basis of a serious argument, but only to drag in a story illustrating the disagreement, the story will nevertheless appear to be very appropriate.

If you happen to be the first speaker, you are by no means without resources. You can then imagine what other speakers are going to say, and if you can slip in a humorous or good-natured hit at the expense of some of the prominent speakers, it will be, highly relished. If you describe what they are likely to say it will be enjoyed, while if you should happen to mention the very opposite this will be set down as your intention. You may even describe the different speakers, and be reminded of things that will bring in the prepared story very appropriately.