As a child, I remember chanting the words, “Sticks and stones
will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
As I grew up, I learned that actions often do speak louder than
words, and I would abide by that in my own trials and as my
relationships developed. However, as time has passed and through
experience and education, I have come to learn just how much power
words can possess. I have also come to respect and appreciate the
influence speech has in our daily lives.
While the politics of speech, in regards to our right to use it,
are complicated, what confuses me the most is the fact that we
often take advantage of its force. We don’t always realize or
appreciate the small and life-changing effects words can have,
whether we mean them to or not.
A simple compliment has the ability to turn a day around, lives
are changed by the smallest acknowledgement, and an apology has the
strength to erase almost any mistake. Relationships start not
solely by handshakes or shy smiles, but by a first hello, followed
closely by an often effortless unforgettable conversation. True
love may be felt at first sight, or shared within kisses and long
gazes, but it is within hearing the words, “I love you” that our
heart begins to fly.
At the same time, words can tear a relationship to shreds, they
can cause fights to break out and they can stop actions that should
be taken. It is words that move us, physically and emotionally,
throughout our lives.
Words give meaning to our daily lives and can make memories and
pictures flow uncontrollably through our minds. They can cause
emotions to run amok whether we want them to or not, and they can
define the expressions we cannot show. While actions are an
incredible asset to speech, they would be meaningless if we could
not explain them. While pictures can say a thousand words, we could
not share their significance if it weren’t for speech. And while a
newborn baby’s first movements hold a parent in awe, it is their
first words that are written down, and it is always our last words
that are never forgotten.
Words can make us cry, smile, laugh and remember. They can start
wars and end disputes, and they make it possible for connections to
develop and for goodbyes to last infinitely. Our speech allows us
to define who we are and what we want, and it gives us the
opportunity to make a difference by simply expressing
Remember that a stranger’s words have the ability to change your
life, and that you too have the choice to speak up. Never forget
that while actions are a form of expression, it is the words we use
that often provide the meaning. And always remember to express how
you feel, to tell a joke, to sing out loud, to say you’re sorry or
to give a compliment, because we are lucky enough to have the right
to something as powerful as speech in our daily lives.
Kelly Hagenah is a senior speech communications major. Her
column will run on Wednesdays.