TED Talk (Blog 10) / Uncategorized

17 Years of Silence


This man didn’t speak for seventeen years. I usually don’t go 17 minutes without speaking. And if I’m not speaking, I’m texting.

But 17 years. Imagine not speaking a word from birth to your senior year of high school. Imagine the things you would hear and learn.

His name is John Francis and not only did he not speak, he also did not ride in any form of transportation involving oil. He walked from his home in southern California to college in Oregon, then to graduate school in Montana. It took him 7 years but he walked across the entire United States without speaking. What sparked his Forrest Gump like behavior? He realized that he spent so much time arguing and speaking that he never really listened. It was supposed to only last a day. But a day turned into a year which turned into almost two decades.

watch at 4:12

He started talking again after studying the environment. He realized the environment included people and how we treat each other. And to spread that message he would have to speak.

Now I have no intention of taking a vow of silence, but I do think it is wise to think about what you say before you say it. Do your words have meaning, are they positive, are they helpful? Or are they just noise?

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6 thoughts on “17 Years of Silence

  1. Theresa,
    This is a fascinating post! I find that speaking less absolves myself of some of the clutter and distractions of life. I’m curious as to if his vocal chords were strong enough when he decided to break his silence!

  2. I think the questions you ask at the end of your post are very thought provoking. I think this man’s idea is very interesting. I’ve done this for a day and really think you do hear and learn a lot more about people.

  3. I really enjoyed this post! Silence can be very powerful, but you can also learn a lot from those around you. I think many people get caught up in their own busy lives and do not take that extra moment to hear everything from others. I do not think I could be silent for 17 years, but I am sure this man learned so much from his experience.

  4. I found this to be absolutely incredible. I too can’t imagine not communicating for more than a day. I think it’s amazing he did it for 17 years. It must have been an incredible experience to be able to purely observe and focus on listening to people.

  5. But, he like, ate? Went to class? If it were my son,partner, father, to not speak to me would just be maddening. Reminds me of monks who take vows of silence, but they live in their own cloistered spaces, not “out in the world.”

    Fascinating!

  6. I think maybe he could have had a better balance, but nontheless moving. I think that people talk so much now, especially about themselves and often times find myself talking to myself while others text on their phones and don’t acknowledge me.

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