A, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k…twenty-six letters; 171,476 words; trillions of possibilities and they all come back to have an effect on us. Know-it-all, giant, goody two shoes, teacher’s pet, over dramatic, your problems don’t matter, you don’t matter, your not wanted here. These were all things that were said to me and as simple and harmless as they seemed they affected my life in an immense way. Worst of all I started to believe them. With so many words at our disposal, we have the power to change the world. We can use our words to speak life as well as use them to speak death. First, we are going to see that our words can be like a weapon. Second, we will discuss how our words can cause damage that will stick with us for the rest of our lives. Third, we are going to change the effect of our words by using our words to build others up instead of tearing them down. 

  1. As in arsenal. Our words can be like a weapon. It is common to hear the statement “actions speak louder than words”. In some cases, they do. But to speak is an action too. Our voices are a gift we have been given and we have a choice on how to use them. Our tongues are our most powerful muscle in our bodies. Out of the 650 muscles in our body, our tongue is the most useful. Though not in the manner of lifting weights or chewing food, but without it, we could not create any words. We could make the noise, but our tongues create the words. This is why our tongue is the most powerful muscle in our bodies. It is a weapon at our disposal at all times. A tool to change lives. The saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is more of a lie than anything. Yes, our bones may be broken by sticks and stones but words can hurt just as much. Our words can become the sticks and stones. They will injure people physically and mentally. They become a weapon to destroy. According to Psychology Today “The brain has receptors for both physical and emotional pain. Which means you can have your heart and spirit broken more literally than not… When pain is inflicted intentionally the hurt is greater, which is all the more reason to pay attention to the words that come out of our mouths.” We have to think before we speak and see the power behind what we say. We can change the world in a speech, but we can destroy life in a few letters. We have the power to start and stop a war, all with a few syllables. 

  2. As in bullying. Our words can cause damage that will stick with us for the rest of our lives. When I was six, we moved; when I was nine, we moved again. But this time, the transition had more bumps than expected. I had never been the prettiest or the coolest or the fastest. I read. I always enjoyed school. I loved the idea of learning how the world worked and most of all, I had a fascination with words. But I guess that isn’t considered cool or interesting. I was bullied for not being like everyone else. I wasn’t obsessed with clothing. I didn’t want to be some famous model or actress. And at a time when I thought words were my best friend, they destroyed me. I didn’t understand why something I had been so fond of had betrayed me. I just didn’t get at such a young age why being different was so bad. I was always encouraged to be unique, but now I wanted nothing other than to fit in and for people to leave me alone. From this, I gained a great fear of social situations. At this time of struggle, I found friends in books…in words. Though I cam to learn that becoming a recluse did nothing for the situation. I was sought out as an easy target. My fear of social situations grew into social anxiety and my childish carelessness became unnatural maturity. My hand quit shooting up to answer every question that came from the teacher’s mouth. The taunts and accusations never seemed to stop and continued on through middle school. Only when I hit the halfway mark of eighth grade did they stop. When I found real friends. Now in ninth grade, I still absolutely love school and learning. I still have an absurd love of words. I still read too much for my own good. And I still have social anxiety. As much as I hate to admit it. The things that I adore hurt me and altered my life till this day. Our words cause irrevocable and irreversible damage. From anxiety and fear to depression and suicide. The words we say can affect someone’s life in the most serious way. We’ve been told that bullying is a normal part of life, but it affects us in such a large way. That the effects are incomprehensible. You have to realize that when you speak those words don’t come back and once they have done their damage; the damage doesn’t fix itself. The result of our words will stick with people for a long time, if not forever. Martin Palagonia wrote in a poem “So when emotions are rising, Hold your tongue fast, and think before speaking..  Do I wish these words to last?” Our words can change people’s view of their self-worth in a second, and our voices can change an opinion with a few vowels. 

  3. Yes, I said Z instead of C. We are jumping to the end. Now that we have talked about how our words can be like a weapon and the damage our words can cause. We are going to change the effect of our words by using our words to build others up instead of tearing them down. Malala Yousafzai once said, “I raise up my voice not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard. We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.” Imagine a world when no one was bullied, where no one hurt anyone else. Now that is a place I would like to be, but if things keep going the way they are going, we are going to destroy the wonderful things we have here. The friendships, the family, all of it. We continually build walls around ourselves, blocking everything out because we were hurt. We struggle to trust, we struggle to believe. All because we have been hurt. Now you might say the words are not a form of abuse, but they are. Simple things like the words I stated in the beginning of this oratory such as nerd, teacher’s pet, goody two shoes and “know it all” can hurt people like they hurt me. If we hear those words over and over, our minds start to accept those as truth. As reality. But if you changed those simple words to unique, beautiful, talented and smart, we could have a world where bullying is stopped, and words are turned to things that are praised and not feared. 

I never thought I would be up here today sharing something that I am so passionate about. Just knowing that I would have to speak in front of a few people I didn’t know made me sick. My mind kept saying, “what if you mess up, what if they don’t like you, what if, what if, what if?” The old taunts and accusations of my middle school and elementary days echoing in my head. I realized that my social anxiety may never go away, but I can learn to power through it in a time of need. Now that we have discussed how our words can be like a weapon, and talked about the damage our words can cause that will stick with people for the rest of their lives, as well as how we should use our words to build others up instead of tearing them down. I hope that today you can come to see the power behind what we say. I hope that you remember to think before you speak and speak out for those who cannot. This is a necessity in our society. “We believe in shouting for those who can only whisper, in defending those who cannot defend themselves.” Veronica Roth, Dauntless Manifesto, Divergent. What has someone said to you? How did you feel? Remember how you felt when someone said something that hurt you. And remember to think before we speak to see the power behind what we say. Always know that we can change the world with 26 letters. L, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z. Next time, won’t you think before you speak?

26 Letters by Jenova Roetto