Successful speeches obviously have impact. As a result of them, listeners learn, decide to change their minds or to take action, or join in celebrating the meaning of exemplary lives. Moreover, if we could see the communication process at work in a speech, we might also see the identities of speakers and listeners coming into or out of focus of communication or show those same people growing larger or smaller. These effects would all represent the consequences of public speaking, especially the ethical impact of public speaking as transactional and transformational communication.
Transactional communication suggests that successful communication goes beyond personal achievement and the sharing of vital information, ideas, and advice. It implies the sharing and sharing of sieves. In the introduction to Bridges Nor Walls, John Stewart, an interpersonal communication scholar, notes: “Every time persons communicate, they are continually offering definitions of themselves and responding to definitions of the other(s)......” therefore, Stewart suggests, communication is an ongoing transaction “in which who we are.......emerges out of the event itself.” We agree: public speaking is often a self-creative event in which we discover ourselves as we communicate with others.
This may seem like a mystical idea, but in large social movements when many speeches work together over time to create the identities of speakers and audiences, the transactional effects can be quite obvious. Consider what happened during the civil right movement from 1956 to 1965, when it was led by Martin Luther King Jr. During those years, King repeatedly identified himself with the biblical Moses. He spoke as though he had been destined and commanded by God to lead his followers out of semislavery. His followers, accordingly many of whom had suffered from the degrading identities assigned to them in the land of segregation, were redefined by his rhetoric as the “Children of Israe!.” Through the many battlefields of the civil rights movement where they moving toward a Promised Land. King was still offering visions of that land on the night before he was assassinated.