Saturday, February 23, 2008

Public Orator?

While I was filling in the profile, I thought to myself, how many people who read this blog will know what a "Public Orator" is. That is a less distressing question than "how many people will read this blog?"

That this is a relatively obscure topic is suggested by the fact that our friends at Wikipedia don't have an article on Public Orator!

The office can be traced back to 1564, when the University of Oxford appointed an Orator to greet Queen Elizabeth I when she visited. The office was made permanent soon after that. The Public Orator was the official spokesman of a university upon all public occasions, who wrote, read, and recorded all letters of a public nature, presented candidates for honorary degrees, with an appropriate address, and performed other like duties. The office still exists, and is held in much esteem. To find out what the present duties of Public Orator are in the ancient Universities, you should consult the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge

The duties of Public Orator of Trinity College, Toronto, are less onerous. The College statutes [4.4.1] state that "A Public Orator shall be appointed annually by the Corporation. The duties of the Public Orator shall be such as the Board may from time to time prescribe." In practice this means that twice a year the Orator has to write a very brief citation in Latin for honorary degree recipients and read it, in Latin, at Convocation. As well as being brief, this citation should be funnier than the English one, so that the handfull of people who can understand it are amused. It might possibly enter the Board's mind that the College needs to write an official letter to someone in Latin, but this is unlikely.

The post of Public Orator is honorary.


Tay Moss said...

Wikipedia does have this line in the entry for "Orator," "In some universities the title 'Orator' is given to the official whose task it is to give speeches on ceremonial occasions, such as the presentation of honorary degrees." Maybe you should put in the "Public Orator reference here and then create a separate page to elaborate on the role? That's a good way to burn up sermon-prep time! -t

William Craig said...

The quotation from Wikipedia would certainly take time, but it was said ever so succinctly already.

Moreover, in the ittle "public orator" orator has more the sense ofapologist or ambassador.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I just finished reading Margaret Drabble's "The Sea Lady." One of the character's is the Public Orator. It took a bit to figure out his role in the university.