Video! See My Speech at Columbia

Last night, I made my debut as a speaker for the Secular Student Alliance, appearing before the atheist student group at Columbia University to discuss the history of church-state separation. It was a short talk, about 20 minutes with Q&A, which suited me just fine for my first foray into public speaking. But I’m very happy with the way it turned out, and I’m hoping there will be more and longer engagements in the future. My thanks again to everyone at Secular Columbia for inviting me.

I’ve posted the video below. It’s my first time, so be gentle!

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About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, City of Light, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Katie M

    MORE :D

    Seriously, that was great. And it was also great to finally get to hear your voice.

  • John Nernoff

    Very good speech and nice to see you in person. I like the brief comment on the Treaty of Tripoli which atheists frequently invoke but know little of its background. Also, pertaining to one of your points, Jesus is quoted as saying “Those who are not with me are against me.” Of course he wasn’t wise enough to realize he fell into the bifurcation fallacy. Lastly your noting that the “pagans” of Australia knew about “Jesus” already attests to the fact that we have never, ever gotten any moral advice from “God”; it’s always another human usually with a funny looking hat, that gives us the advice.

  • Gino

    Unfortunately, I showed up right at 6pm and couldn’t get past security…

    PS: I own that exact water bottle

  • Hailey

    Oh, wonderful!

    I would love to hear you speaking more often, a few of those lines had me chortling in public, I must admit. I only lament the fact that MSU is so far away from Columbia.

    I also loved the comment on the Treaty with Tripoli as to its history and the comprehensive records of the separation of church and state that you neatly and effectively compacted into a roughly 15 minute speech. I will be sharing this with peers, cheers!

  • Ceetar

    Aren’t you glad I gave you a couple of minutes to practice public speaking back in October?

  • David Hart

    Hey, don’t knock the funny hats; they’re often the best thing about a religion:-P Personally I have a soft spot for the Orthodox Jewish shtreimel . Don’t know how easy it would be for a nonbeliever to get one made, though.

  • kagerato

    Not bad for a first go. Your writing is solid as usual. One thing I would recommend is keeping a frequent, periodic, sweeping gaze on the audience, though it is troublesome to do without having fully memorized the material.

    Practice makes perfect is more applicable to public speaking than almost anything else.

    The most interesting part of the speech in my view was the segment where you emphasized how religious leaders had dramatically changed their statements on blasphemy and tolerance of differing opinion. This very much aligns with the sentiment that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It ought to give many religious leaders pause to consider what happens when another sect has full control of the government, or even simply an absolute say over the doctrine of their particular religion.

    I would say that it is precisely the key flaw of religion and religious thinking generally that they expect their leaders to be good and just, and take this principle on faith.

  • Ebonmuse

    @Ceetar: Hah. :P

    @Hailey: Well, I’d be happy to come and speak somewhere closer to you! I note that the Secular Student Alliance has an MSU affiliate, and if we can work something out for transportation, I’d gladly make the trip. :)

  • Maynard

    Great job! Remember, it usually gets easier each time.

  • sqeecoo

    Pretty good speech. The text is nice, the delivery is solid. Absolutely great for a first timer :)

    You kind of look like captain Reynolds from Firefly.

  • unintentionalhypocrite


  • Clytia

    i think you did really well, and it was awesome being able to watch a vid of you speaking, since i’ve been reading your blog for such a long time now.
    you speak well, and clearly, you obviously know your material well, even if it wasn’t fully memorized and even though you did look a bit nervous it also looked like you enjoyed yourself. you’re braver with the public speaking than i could ever be.

    well done and yay!

  • TFM

    Public speaking is scary, so kudos for taking the leap. If you’re open to tips, I would suggest less fully-phrased prepared material (it’s harder to connect with the audience if you’re reading every word) and rely instead on key words or phrases to cue you as you go. Your material was good as always, but if I ever get to see you speak, I look forward to hearing a more conversational Ebonmuse, since I’m already pretty familiar with your written voice.

    Good job, though, especially for your first go.

  • hourlily

    I finally got around to watching this. Great job!