Do yourselves a favor – anyone reading this blog, no matter where you are on the political spectrum – go here and watch – it’s 30 minutes long, but it’s a thrilling 30 minutes.
I can only think of one other speech that I’ve ever witnessed that had this strong an effect on me – that being the “Mr. Gorbechov, Tear Down This Wall” speech.
Obama should take heed. He doubtless thinks of himself as a great orator…he was after all, elected mostly on his ability to talk a good game. But Obama is not a great orator and there hasn’t been a single Obama speech that compares with the true greats of political rhetoric. And there is a very clear reason. In order to give a great speech, you have to do three things well:
- You’ve got to use language that evokes clear imagery and, thus, emotion. Obama, when campaigning in 2008 at least, did this well. Or, I should say, his speech writers did it well.
- You’ve got to have a clear take home message. You’ve got to have a reason for giving the speech in order for it to mean anything to the audience. While campaigning, Obama had a reason – at least he could theoretically portray that reason as a dire need for change in Washington from the policies of the Bush Administration. Since then, however, he has consistently failed to have a real selling point. Because as it turns out, he doesn’t have a clear idea of what he wants to accomplish with the office.
- You’ve got believe what you’re saying with absolute conviction. The speech should be from the heart for it to work. I don’t think Obama ever had this working for him. That’s why he always seemed so robotic in his more successful days, and that’s why he now uses fake folksy language and obviously amateur ham-handed emotionalism in the delivery of his speeches – especially the two most recent ones “Pass This Bill!” to the Congressional floor and “Stop Whining and Get in Line!” to the Black Caucus. Though I could also call “Eat Your Peas” a part of that same trend.