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by Donald B. Ardell, Ph. D.
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Wellness in the Headlines
(Don's Report to the World)

The 2010 Robert G. Ingersoll Oratory Contest

Saturday September 18, 2010

I was delighted to learn that an Ingersoll Oratory Contest, sponsored by the Washington Area Secular Humanists (WASH), will be staged in the nation's capital on October 24, 2010. This is the second year for the event, and once again the venue is Dupont Circle. (In case of rain, the contest will held nearby James Hoban's Irish Restaurant & Bar.) Speeches get underway at noon. If you live in the region, consider attending—it's free and will be great fun, not to mention inspirational given that the words to be spoken were conceived and first delivered by the great "Royal Bob." I don't live in the area, but I plan to attend, anyway. In fact, I've applied as a contestant. If selected, I'll perform, in costume, the after dinner talk the eminent 19th century orator put forward on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Lotos Club in New York City on March 22, 1890.

Ian IngersollRobert G. Ingersoll, known then as "The Great Agnostic" and to a small band of REAL wellness promoters today as a REAL wellness pioneer, was a tireless advocate for reason, exuberant living, happiness, justice, and separation of church and state. Among his special causes were racial equality, birth control, women's rights, Darwin's theory of evolution, Shakespeare, free speech, voting rights for Washington, DC. and relief from the customs and constraints of Christian orthodoxy. Details of his life can be read at the WASH website

With eloquence and exceptional logic, all sweetened with profound imagery and wit, Ingersoll delivered over 1,200 speeches, most to standing-room-only crowds. The great man lived in Washington, D.C. for seven years; WASH's website contains photo images of notable sites of his homes, offices and major lecture venues as they looked then and as they are now. The organization also offers an Ingersoll a do-it-yourself walking tour guide to these historic locations.

One key purpose of the Ingersoll oratory contest is to rectify an unfortunate situation, namely, that Ingersoll, despite his extraordinary fame in his time and his body of incomparable work, has been neglected and largely forgotten by history.

WASH is doing its part to change that.

The contest will feature up to 15 speakers who will deliver brief excerpts from Robert G. Ingersoll's works. A panel of judges will evaluate and award prizes for the best performances. Talks must be no less than three and not longer than six minutes.

In a New York Times interview last week focused on his latest film ("Woody Allen on Faith, Fortune Tellers and New York," September 14, 2010), Dave Itzkoff asked:

"What seems more plausible to you, that we've existed in past lives, or that there is a God? And "How do you feel about the aging process?" To the first question, Allen replied: "Neither seems plausible to me. I have a grim, scientific assessment of it. I just feel, what you see is what you get." As to his feeling about aging, Allen replied: "Well, I'm against it. [laughs] I think it has nothing to recommend it. You don't gain any wisdom as the years go by. You fall apart, is what happens. People try and put a nice varnish on it, and say, well, you mellow. You come to understand life and accept things. But you'd trade all of that for being 35 again. I've experienced that thing where you wake up in the middle of the night and you start to think about your own mortality and envision it, and it gives you a little shiver."

Don as Robert IngersollIf I'm selected, I will offer the after-dinner speech that Robert Green Ingersoll delivered at the 20th anniversary gathering of the Lotos Club in New York City on March 22, 1890. On that occasion, Ingersoll gave a brilliant talk, comparing the situation of all living persons to passengers fated to ride on a railroad wherein everyone was to be killed, for which there was no escape. All the concerns expressed by Woody Allen are addressed in Ingersoll's Lotos speech. It is poignant, yet uplifting. It addresses our own fate, yet contains much wisdom for living well nonetheless. In the event you don't want to take the chance that I might not be there to give this address or you can't make it to Washington even if I do get picked to speak, you can find the address here -

I highly recommend it. I think I'll tell Woody Allen about it.

For information on how to register for the Ingersoll Oratory Contest, see the contest Web site -

I'll let you know if I am invited to be a contestant and, if I am, how things go. Wish me random good fortune.

May random good fortune be upon you and all of us in seeking to become and stay well and mentally prosperous while doing what little we can to support others to do likewise.

Domain: purpose
Subdomain: applied wellness

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