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Unaccustomed as I Am

William S. Middleton, M.D.
JAMA. 1961;178(3):308-311. doi:10.1001/jama.1961.73040420008010.
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THE ANCIENT CLICHÉ, "unaccustomed as I am to public speaking," is rarely heard nowadays. Indeed, the very expression is a breach of a basic principle of public address: Never introduce a speech with an apology. The spoken word is the common possession of normal human beings and language is the recognized medium of communication. The interchange between peoples of the same language anticipated the written word. While codes were introduced for telegraphic and early radio messages, the telephone, radio, and television now transmit the spoken voice to the listener without essential distortion. The more sophisticated methods of communication have vastly extended the range of the spoken voice. Instead of reducing the demands for public speakers, these media have greatly increased the same.

The physician has a singular responsibility in this area. The opportunity to inform the lay public and to educate the profession is boundless. As physicians, we must meet


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