Book Review: Speeches, by Paul R. Baier

by Edward F. Sherman

This book gathers speeches (and a few essays, commentaries, and article excerpts) from Professor Paul R. Baier, Judge Henry A. Politz Distinguished Professor of Law at the Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center, covering a span of thirty-one years from 1983 to 2014. Most of the speeches were delivered at formal events in Louisiana honoring (or in memorial of) distinguished judges and lawyers. United States Supreme Court Justices are the subjects of a number of the speeches, including both older historical figures, such as Chief Justice Edward Douglass White and Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and more contemporary Justices, such as Chief Justices Warren E. Burger and William H. Rehnquist and Justices Hugo Black, William Brenan, Jr., Lewis Powell, Jr., Antonin Scalia, and Harry A. Blackmun (who writes a foreword to the book, together with one by U.S. District Court Judge Eldon Fallon (E.D. La.)). Professor Baier had personal contacts with a number of them, often through law school summer programs abroad. Called simply Speeches, this book is in the great tradition of speech making in America. Speeches have long had a respected place in the American historical and literary tradition, providing enlightenment, persuasion, and inspiration. Collections of the speeches of an individual can offer not only that person’s perspective on the topic, but also insights into the times in which the speech was given. Political and congressional speeches have had a prominent place in policy debates; those of Abraham Lincoln, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John C. Calhoun come to mind. Speeches by such notables as William Jennings Bryan, Eugene Debs, Susan B. Anthony, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., have inspired social and political movements. William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech took eloquence to a new height to focus on the human condition and Faulkner’s “old verities.” Finally, speeches by lawyers—from trials, public fora, law society and journal banquets, and ceremonial occasions—occupy a special niche in the pantheon of speech making.


89 Tul. L. Rev. 1011 (2015)