Give ‘em something to talk about

The southeast corner of Bohemia Park has been proposed as a spot for Cottage Grove’s own Speakers’ Corner.

A resident proposes a section of Bohemia Park be used for public speaking events

Cottage Grove resident John Caloia wants to get people talking.

Inspired by the world-famous Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park, London, Caloia is trying to gather momentum for Cottage Grove’s own designated Speakers’ Corner in Bohemia Park.

“I’ve gone to Speakers’ Corner in London three or four times, so I’m familiar with it and thought it was very interesting,” he said. “There’s quite a few people not too far away from Springfield, Eugene, Creswell and other areas around here — just country folk that might like to come and listen to somebody talk on a subject or speak themselves.”

Though Hyde Park is the original and most famous example of such sites, versions and imitations of Speakers’ Corner exist in many cities around the world. They are typically open-air spaces reserved for public speaking, debate, and discussion.

Caloia envisions reserving a southeast corner of Bohemia Park for the weekly event. Starting June 5, every Sunday from 10 a.m. to dusk, he hopes to attract residents and visitors alike to flock to the area to orate, listen and discuss.

The concept is simple: all are welcome speak on any subject, using only the power of their vocal chords (no microphones or bull horns). Speakers may bring their own platforms such as a box or a stepladder to be better heard. Attendees are encouraged to comment, argue, debate or otherwise confer with the speaker.

As a general rule, engagement is welcomed, but unruly behavior is not.

The original Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park started in 1860 and has been attracting participants from around the world ever since. Such designated sites have come to represent bastions of freedom of speech.

Caloia said he was inspired by his own visits to Hyde Park’s Speakers’ Corner, where he saw animated debate on various topics.

While some speakers may gravitate toward more emotion-evoking, debatable issues in politics or religion, Caloia said the spirit of the corner makes the event open to all topics.

“If you’ve got a hobby — if you hunt, fish, play golf, whatever — talk about that,” he said. “Tell them about the type of golf club you have or where you go fishing. It’s open to anything.”

Though, he did add that “people are supposed to be somewhat specialized in whatever they’re talking about.”

Presumably, the only restrictions on speech would be those already existing in U.S. law. Common areas of limitation relate to areas such as defamation, obscenity, pornography and incitement to violence.

Caloia said he has already done paperwork with the city to get his plan in motion. Now all he needs is people. Though he has recruited a handful of interested people, Caloia is looking for more to help spread the word to effect a robust turnout come June 5.

For more information about the project, John Caloia can be reached at 541-942-9508.


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