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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Supporting Materials and Critical Thinking (Peer Testimony)

Another type of testimony often used in speeches is Peer Testimony – opinions of people like ourselves; not prominent figures, but ordinary citizens who have firsthand experience on the topic. This kind of testimony is especially valuable because it gives a more personal viewpoint on issues then can be gained from expert testimony. It conveys the feeling, the knowledge, and the insight of people who speak with the voice of genius experience.

For example, if you were speaking about the barriers faced by people with physical disabilities, you would surely include testimony from doctors and other medical authorities. But in this case, the expert testimony would be limited because it cannot communicate what it really means to have a physical disability – such as the following:

Itzhak Perlman, the word-renowned violinist whose legs are paralyzed, once said; “When you are in a wheelchair, people don’t talk to you. Perhaps they think it is contagious, or perhaps they think crippled mind. But whatever the reason, they treat you like a thing.”

Paul Longmore, who lost the use of his legs as a child, notes that most people are uncomfortable in the presence of someone who is handicapped. “It’s only when they really go out of their way to get to know us,” he says, “that they realize we are just as bright, witty, and companionable as they are.”

There is no way expert testimony can express these ideas with the same authenticity and emotional impact.

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