Abigail Shrier and rational fear

At a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar in Franklin, Tennessee, in May 2021 – the same one addressed by Andy Ngo whom we examined on 4 June – there was a talk by Abigail Shrier, author of Irreversible Damage.

She has a Wikipedia page which, in its first paragraph, includes the following verbatim statement,

The book endorses the contentious concept of rapid onset gender dysphoria.

I have yet to read her book, but I’ve heard this speech twice. When you’ve heard her speech, you may like to decide for yourself whether that statement by Wikipedia is likely to be true. You may also understand why I chose to link her name to her own website instead of Wikipedia in order that she – rather than others – should tell us who she is.

The introduction is made by our old friend, Timothy Caspar, who makes the usual precise and concise job of it. He also throws in an appealing play on words at the end.

As stated earlier I’ve watched this twice, and you can add to that several dippings in and out at particular spots. It took only one viewing to absorb, marvel at, and get angered by, what she has to say; the rest was trying to analyse and understand her delivery.

She reads her speech, which for me is always a disappointment because spontaneous shooting from the hip is always more audience-friendly. As usual I wait eagerly for an ad lib ‘aside’ to see how much more fluent it is, but in this event it isn’t. On the contrary it is full of stumbles. That is very unusual. Intrigued, I look for a reason and eventually I think I find it. I’ll return to that, but meanwhile I claim that Shrier could easily be taught how to shoot everything from the hip, and would find it super-liberating, but would take a heap of persuading that it was a good idea.

She is very nervous, and these aren’t Hump nerves because they don’t recede after the first couple of minutes. She continues to display nerve symptoms throughout, making me itch to help her. For instance the periodic adjustment of microphones is a classic example. As a generality nerves are divided into rational and irrational, and rational ones are those that get dug in and stay for the duration, so what does she have to be rationally nervous about? The content is beautifully coherent.

She doesn’t seem to be upset by the audience’s laughter. It isn’t derision: it’s laughter of astonishment, of incredulity, even outrage, and there is plenty here to cause outrage.

Children’s futures being destroyed by organisations who exist to help them is an outrage. The fact of most transgender activists not themselves being transgender is an outrage, as it suggests their motivation to be sinister. The huge list of previously respectable institutions that have been infiltrated and hollowed out by activists is an outrage. The disgusting techniques used to stifle any debate is an outrage. And so on.

At 20:14 she tells us that trans-bigotry is “soaked in lies”. At 28:25 she addresses “Why?”, and the answer comes at 29:35. Chaos. Chaos is the point. It’s all tied in with a range of other disreputable and mendacious movements – BLM, Antifa, Critical Race Theory, Extinction Rebellion, etc. Chaos is the point. The more lies you can invent to swell the victim class, the more people you have to join the Revolution.

I can think of many other movements that are soaked in lies, but don’t get me started.

Shrier ends at 32:12, and as the applause hits her just look at her face! How often have you seen such smiles of profound relief? And lest there be any doubt listen to what she says at 33:05. She has become conditioned to be scared stiff of her audience. That’s where the rational nerves stemmed. Scott Atlas made a similar observation when he spoke to Hillsdale.

What sort of evil are we up against when daring to speak the truth is made so dangerous? It’s an evil that causes all-but-extinct organisations like Hillsdale College, that espouse free debate, to be of huge importance.

Tim Allen to infinity

Tim Allen to infinity

In May 2021 Hillsdale College staged its one hundred and sixty-ninth Commencement Address, and the speaker was actor/comedian Tim Allen.

I’ve often thought that selecting a speaker for commencement addresses is an interesting and potentially perilous undertaking, because in addition to an absorbing speaker you have to find some relevance beyond mere celebrity. I have now discovered that Tim Allen, in addition to the huge menu of work in his resumé, in addition to being the voice of Buzz Lightyear, is the voice of Michigan in the state advertisements entitled Pure Michigan. Hillsdale College is in Michigan.

Nevertheless I suspect there’s a lot more for us to learn.

The speaker for an event of this profile should have a very senior introducer, and Larry Arnn the college President does the honours. We’ve seen him introducing before. He takes no prisoners. Does Tim Allen have any idea what’s coming?

Nope! He is overcome! “How in hell am I supposed to follow that?”

He’s neatly identified my problem here. How in hell am I supposed to critique this?

The fact is that being a comedian – a proper one with a Vegas routine that his agent warned him not to use here – he is comfortable with narrating a stream of consciousness. At least it comes across as a stream of consciousness whereas it conforms to an orthodox structure – chronology. He’s telling his life story with the emphasis, because he’s talking to a college, on his stressful relationship with his teachers. Anyone could follow that structure, but what makes this special is that he colours it all with his over-the-top personality. He’s a comedian – a proper one – and this is lovely stuff.

He’s even funny about how he went astray and wound up in a penitentiary for two years.

To the wider world he’s undoubtedly more famous for his acting because movies get more butts on seats than even the vast auditoriums in Vegas, but he’s a little dismissive of that part of his work. It pays the bills, it pays a hell of a lot of bills, but it doesn’t have audience contact. This is an artist who relishes audience contact and it shows.

The better they are the pickier I get. The least effective sections in this talk are when he moves into worthy areas. He probably thinks he should, and and he’s probably right, but it feels to me as if he’s strayed out of his back yard. But that’s very picky indeed.

I loved this.

Žižek vs Hannan re Marx

Žižek vs Hannan re Marx

On 3 June 2021 the Cambridge Union streamed a virtual debate between brilliant speakers who have both been featured on this blog before.

Slavoj Žižek appeared in January 2019 with a speech delivered to the Oxford Union. He it was, with his manifold twitches and fidgets, that finally cemented my conviction that if you are interesting enough it doesn’t matter if you display idiosyncrasies and mannerisms. I described him then as a tonic. I still do.

Daniel Hannan has been featured no less than seven times, the first time in November 2012, and epitomises my oft-repeated declaration that the better they are the pickier I get. My pickiness with him was that his search for public speaking perfection risked smoothing away his edges so much that his personality could get hidden.

Could you have a more contrasting pair? And the motion they are debating is This House Believes Marx Was Right.

The debate is introduced and chaired very well by Joel Rosen, President of the Union, and begins with a ten minute statement from each of the speakers. Žižek for the proposition goes first.

It is interesting that, rather than fill the screen with just the speaker, the producers elect to show both speakers all the time. My advice to those who are on TV debates is never while others are speaking to pull faces, nod, shake your head, scowl or make any other tacit comment, but remain impassive and keep your powder dry. I am therefore delighted to see Hannan listening intently but without expression. (There is one dramatic exception late in the debate when Žižek makes a staggering statement which causes my jaw to drop and Hannan’s eyes almost to pop out. I’ll come back to that.)

Žižek’s fidgets and twitches are matched by his Slovenian accent that you could slice and dice with a blunt spoon. Normally this doesn’t matter, but add to that the sound distortion through the virtual meeting medium, and I fear that here he is often very difficult for my English ears to decipher. This is a pity because he is good, and knowing this I concentrate like fury – and though it’s sometimes hard work it is worth doing.

Ten minutes later Hannan begins his opposition, and the contrast is even greater than I expected. Whereas Žižek delights in going off on convoluted tangents, Hannan is keeping everything super-tight with coherence to match. Nevertheless the deep-frozen Hannan discipline that I have seen in the past thaws enough to allow more passion to show through, and that delights me.

The centre section of the debate consists of rebuttals, and then questions from each other, from viewers and from the chairman.

One question put to them concerns whether Marx’s philosophy would be better at combatting the climate crisis. What climate crisis? My instant reaction is that I am watching here something I have never seen on the subject of global warming – a debate. Al Gore used to parrot a slogan, “The debate is over!” What debate? I have never seen or heard of any actual proper debate, though I have seen plenty of debate challenges issued causing alarmists to scurry for cover. You’d have thought that alone would have weakened their standing, yet “the climate crisis” is blithely dropped into a question in a debate like this as if everyone accepts its very existence – while many seriously significant scientists don’t, as a recent speech on this blog testifies.

A question to Hannan is “who is your favourite communist thinker?” and to Žižek “who is your favourite conservative thinker?” As usual Žižek goes around the houses a few times before giving his answer. It comes at 1.11.35 and there is the afore-mentioned jaw-dropper which I shall not spoil, but Hannan’s face is a sight to behold.

The debate rounds off with a concluding speech from each of of them.

Is there a winner? Is a vote taken? I don’t know, and I don’t really care. I have had a riveting hour and a half, and that satisfies me.

Andy Ngo: beaten by brutish beasts

At a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar in Franklin, Tennessee, in May 2021, there was a talk by Andy Ngo.

In all the thousands of online speeches I have watched, though a round of applause at the end, and in greeting at the beginning, is the norm I think this is the first time I have heard an audience break out in spontaneous applause at the mere mention of the speaker’s name at the beginning of his introduction.

The introduction is by Timothy Caspar, and it is he that is unexpectedly interrupted by applause on his mentioning Ngo’s name. Caspar’s reaction is excellent, as is the personal warmth that he injects into the introduction.

Ngo comes to the lectern just after 2:30 but can’t begin speaking till nearly the 3-minute mark, because now the applause is turbo charged by cheering. The applause at the end of the speech is more subdued, probably by the chilling story.

O judgement! Thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason.

I already knew some of at least the bare bones of Ngo’s account of his investigations into the activities of Antifa. For the purposes of this posting that was an advantage, because otherwise I would have been gaping at what he tells instead of carefully considering his delivery. If you are coming new to this story, be prepared. This is a brave man.

He begins by uttering a trigger-warning concerning the nature of some of the images he will be showing, and they are shocking. That warning is not sensationalist, nor is Ngo. His account of dramatic incidents is delivered in a calm, matter-of-fact and undramatic fashion, allowing the narrative to speak for itself. The only help he gives to the story comes in the shape of long pauses. It works pretty well, but the real quality of this speech is that the story is even being told.

The story he tells and the images he shows are outrageous, as is the inability of politically shackled police to combat it. But in many ways more shocking still is the role of the press. I often come across people who would classify themselves as well-informed who have at best the faintest, sketchiest idea of the unfettered anarchy that has been going on since last year in Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis. This is because the world is told almost nothing, and the little that does get out is ridiculously biased and sanitised. There was last year a notorious piece of video footage of a US TV reporter talking of ‘a peaceful protest’ while behind him numerous buildings were blazing. This news blackout has overflowed to the UK. Proper journalism is, if not dead, at least comatose.

That is why when people like Andy Ngo defy death-threats to spread real news people of good will and espousers of truth break out in spontaneous applause.

Robert Woodson: inspirational

In April 2021 Hillsdale College, in its Christ Chapel Drummond Lecture Series, hosted a talk by Robert L. Woodson.

I am resolving to stop apologising for covering so many speeches from Hillsdale College. The habit began when they seemed, during the pandemic nonsense, about the only online source of live speeches to live audiences. The habit was somewhat reinforced when I found that, regardless of the standard of delivery or content preparation (which I could and did discuss), the messages these people were conveying were so wise. Even on rare occasions that I disagreed with them I found their arguments respectable – and that is refreshing these days.

U-oh! Larry Arnn is doing the introduction. We know him in particular from his speech that we covered only a couple of weeks ago. Timothy Caspar, politics lecturer, seems usually to do the honours for these Hillsdale talks, but when the college President gets up we know from experience that he regards this speaker as extra-special and that he will say so in terms that will be seriously moving for the speaker himself.

Yep! I was right.

This is really very good. Woodson shoots everything from the hip like a proper speaker, and it is very powerful. Those who don’t share my passion for the power of speaking without notes (which is actually quite easy when you know how) might gleefully point to small errors like when at 14:50, quoting a date, he says “2025” when he clearly means “1925”. The mistake is obvious and all the manifest sincerity pouring out of Woodson completely swamps the tiny slip.

Woodson’s philosophy, driving his work and this speech, is that when it comes to the deprived a hand-up is infinitely better than a hand-out, love is stronger than hate, and allowing your mentality to be ruled by resentment or self-pity robs you of your ability to lift yourself by your own bootstraps.

It is wonderful stuff, wonderfully conveyed, and full of astonishing inspirational stories that underpin his philosophy. He begins at 3:45, speaks through to the end of the video at 43:00 and it is worth every second.

William Happer and a tiny sentence

Continuing with my mining the rich seam of live speeches under the banner of Hillsdale College, I find a speech delivered at the National Leadership Symposium in Phoenix, Arizona, on 19 February 2021. The speaker is Dr William Happer, and his talk is entitled How to Think about Climate Change, though the video has been given a different title.

The introduction is by Timothy Caspar. We’ve heard many introductions from him, and as usual he tends to read most of it, because he is listing the academic and professional credentials of the speaker, and the list is huge and impressive. The brightest spots, from the speaking perspective however, are those when Caspar lifts his face and utters a personal aside. I am so hoping for a speech from him one day.

Happer begins at 2:10, and hands over to Questions at 45:47.

When I began blogging, speeches for and against “Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming” were all the rage, and I quickly noticed one crucial detail that distinguished them. Alarmists limited themselves to frightening assertions (the earth is going to fry), while sceptics gave you data (no it isn’t, and here’s why). When the earth stubbornly failed to fry, alarmists changed from “Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming” which can be measured and therefore falsified to “Climate Change” which has always happened, always will, and therefore can’t.

Alarmists slyly claimed to represent The Science, while those who had closely studied their campaign and how it contradicted source data, knew it really represented The Politics. It was politics that enabled them to gain the argument, even though it was all clearly hogwash. Today climate alarmism has spawned industries worth trillions of dollars so the smart money is forced to join the fiction. Buoyed up by this they have again changed the name, this time to “Climate Emergency”. Governments around the world (for reasons best known to themselves or their organ-grinders) fall over each other to announce ever more bonkers policies to tackle an imaginary problem while endangering real economies, cultures and environments. When the whole pack of cards collapses, as being built on lies it eventually will, I shall probably be long gone.

Back to this speech which throws up something significant about public speaking.

In three quarters of an hour there is a 21-second passage, between 3:50 and 4:11, that says all that needs to be heard. That small window includes a tiny but golden sentence –

There is no climate emergency.

Virtually all the rest of the time is devoted to streams of data which, though ably supporting that sentence are actually rather tedious. Had I been advising him I’d have pruned the whole thing down to less than ten minutes. Scientists in the audience already know those data, lay people scarcely care.

I repeatedly tell my trainees to keep their brushstrokes broad. It is just too easy to get bogged down in detail. There’s a quotation attributed to J.S.Bach, “It is not hard to compose, but it is wonderfully hard to let the superfluous notes fall under the table”. When you listen to his music, and its sublime economy, you really understand that quotation. One of the most important, and elusive, public speaking skills is judging how little detail you actually need. As I say in a speaking tip on my website,

Dumb is making sure your presentation dots every i and crosses every t:  Smart is making sure your audience understands and remembers the message.

Adam Andrzejewski needs to be heard

In March 2020 Hillsdale College held a National Leadership Seminar in Naples, Florida. One of the speakers was Adam Andrzejewski delivering a talk entitled “The Depth of the Swamp“. It’s an appropriate title for a speech from someone who has published a book called Operation Drain the Swamp.

Pretty well everywhere you look for information about this man, you find a pronunciation guide to his name. They vary, but “And-G-F-ski” seems to be one of the leading candidates. It reminds me of decades ago when I was preparing a radio interview with the conductor, Gennady Rozhdestvensky and telephoned a friend for pronunciation guidance. He said, “Roger-Svensky, but everyone calls him Noddy”. We Western Europeans are useless when it comes to pronouncing names originating east of Vienna.

Once again the introduction is by politics lecturer, Timothy Caspar, and Andrzejewski arrives at the lectern at 1:50.

His speech is truly, and deliberately, shocking. He firehoses at the audience a stream of data that amounts to horrendous financial corruption in several layers of the US government, a gold-plated gravy-train. If I were an American I’d go straight out to buy his book to learn more, but …

There is something that bothers me about Andrzejewski’s delivery, particularly during the early part of the speech, and it’s quite difficult to explain. He delivers hard and fast, but then he gives the impression of being one who drives himself hard and fast. He is obviously highly intelligent, and the facts, figures and sundry data pour out of him in a torrent. So far – you may think – so good.

Except the audience isn’t quite responding in the way it is evidently intended to. There are punchlines in abundance, some humorous most not but all of them worthy of serious note, yet his pause for reaction is each time a disappointment. My rule for trainees is never to pause on a punchline until and unless the audience forces a pause on you. He would do well to observe that rule.

Also there are ‘seizure points’, moments of brief silence when there shouldn’t be. These are not pauses for dramatic effect: they are random, sometimes mid-sentence. If he were reading a script (which he isn’t) they would be times when he lost his place. That is how they sound.

Briefly I wondered whether he had learnt this entire speech as a script, and those seizure points were momentary lapses of memory, but various signs caused me to abandon that theory.

I now have another theory, on which I could easily be way off the mark, but I’ll float it anyway.

Having written his book, and I’m prepared to bet that it is even punchier than this speech, he decided to go out and speak the same messages. The way to do that, he reasoned, was simply to broadcast his written material orally. To adjust for the different medium he would inject the speaking with bags of personality and vocal modulation. He would strive to avoid things that most public speaking coaches (though not this one) criticise, like “um” and “er” – and thereby all that would surely work.

It’s a logical assumption, and I don’t blame him if he made it, but a relationship with an audience is more nuanced and takes subtler building.

I suspect that he gets plenty of invitations to speak because his message is dynamite, so he could find his public voice and its optimum style by trial and error. That can be a painful apprenticeship, but he doesn’t strike me as a quitter. By the end of this speech his audience relationship had improved markedly, but it still wasn’t ideal.

At any rate I wish him well because people need to hear him.

Larry Arnn teaches

On 19 February this year in Phoenix, Arizona, there was a National Leadership Seminar held by Hillsdale College.

Regular readers might roll their eyes and moan “Hillsdale again?” to which my reply is that if anyone would be so kind as to show me other places where live people were delivering live speeches in the flesh to live audiences these days, I’d be glad to explore those also. In the meantime I shall continue to mine this seam.

Today’s subject is one I have been craving to examine, because he comes as close as anyone to personifying Hillsdale College. He would probably deny that because he seems to be a Primus Inter Pares character, but as President of Hillsdale College he appears to have imprinted it with his own personality. He is Larry P. Arnn.

In several recent postings on this blog he has introduced speakers with a brilliance which kindled my interest, and then recently that kindling was inflamed when I happened upon this interview with him from about four years ago. I commend it.

But for now I am looking at this speech…

I’ve seen Timothy Caspar introducing before, because he is a Hillsdale lecturer of politics, and on the other occasions he read his introduction. Introductions are often read, not just because they are full of important biographical data but because it is a wise policy to ask speakers to write their own introduction. That way the speaker sets his own starting blocks as he wants them, is responsible for accuracy and relevance, and the introducer is saved an invidious task. On this occasion however Caspar is introducing a long-standing colleague and friend, is mostly shooting his own reminiscences from the hip, and doing it well. Why, you may ask, is he then periodically looking down at the lectern? My considered answer is that this is mainly comfort-habit.

Arnn kicks off with a photograph of his grand-daughter. Don’t you hate people who do that? I am skilled at oh-so-subtly flashing the wallpaper picture on my phone, showing surprise that anyone spotted it and then basking in the doting chorus of “aah!”.

This speech was delivered three days before I published this post, and Arnn begins with recalling his friendship with the same deceased subject. You may assume that to be a self-indulgent, mawkish diversion from what he is there to say. If so, you haven’t heard it yet. In that segment he teaches us more about the ethos of Hillsdale College and its approach to education than a brochure could ever tell you.

[At 14:54 he unwittingly sent a personal message to me. I had been surprised and a little disappointed that he had looked down at his lectern quite often, especially in the early part of the talk. Was he regularly and unnecessarily consulting his notes, or was this also a habit? At 14:54 he gave me the answer: it was habit. I knew that because now when he consulted his notes to see if he had missed anything he looked down through his spectacles – which he hadn’t done before.]

At 18:25 he turns to what he calls ‘the bad stuff’, and so begins an analysis of the way the USA was designed to be governed and how that design has become corrupted. With a few minor adjustments he could be talking about the UK, and even when the technicalities are US-specific it’s still interesting, so the lesson is absorbing even for this Brit. I summarise what I learnt in the fault stemming from ignorance. Unscrupulous people have got away with crimes because those who could have stopped them were ignorant of their power to do so. Therefore everything goes back to education and its failings (or deliberate infantilisation of students), and we all see that happening on this side of the Atlantic also.

In his introduction Timothy Caspar described Arnn as “always teaching”. Ain’t that the truth! – this speech is evidence. Part of ‘always teaching’ is always learning, constantly seeking out more to study. Caspar also told us that Arnn was a student of the life and work of Winston Churchill, and for the final section of this speech Arnn turns to him. Suddenly I, an Englishman, am being told by an American a story about Churchill that I didn’t know.

What a magnificent closing!

Nick Hudson disentangles

BizNews held their Inaugural Investment Conference on 18 March this year. The conference was addressed by Nick Hudson, Chairman of PANDA.

The introduction is delivered by Alec Hogg, founder and publisher of BizNews and self-described “disruptive media entrepreneur”.

My trainees, and indeed readers of my book, The Face & Tripod will spot that Hogg has Something to Say in addition to merely telling us about Nick Hudson. He also shoots it from the hip. So far so good, except he is popping his microphone. This is partly his fault inasmuch as he is speaking too directly into the mic, but also he needs to be advised that these days there are microphones that are virtually pop-proof.

Hudson is heard speaking at 1:57, about five seconds before he is faded in on the video. It’s an unusual and appealing production detail which I applaud, but it also prompts me to make a less complimentary comment concerning the staging of this talk. I have already criticised the lectern microphone (or at least its use); I now must say something about the stage lighting.

Hudson is a pacer. He likes to pace to and fro while he speaks, and I have no quarrel with that. I have found over the years that there are people who are simply better at thinking on their feet if those feet happen to be moving. The trouble here is that this makes him go in and out of the stage lighting. Actors and professional speakers learn to love their light and stay within it, and Hudson could do the same, but why should he? He is expert in his own speciality and is entitled to think that those staging this conference are expert in theirs.

The solution is not completely straightforward. There are illuminated screens on that stage whose distinctiveness could be faded if the whole stage was covered with a bright wash of light, and that would be regrettable, but lighting people are good at getting around this sort of issue. I suspect that what went wrong was that they didn’t know that Hudson would be a pacer. A technical rehearsal would have told them.

I’m being very picky here but, as I have said often enough on this blog, the better they are the pickier I get. That creative bit of editing that caused Hudson to be seen in this video after he was first heard signifies a conscientious production team, so I bet they were tearing their hair out over the lighting – but by then it was too late. It didn’t make me tear my hair, it was just something I noticed.

The reason for my equanimity is that the speech itself is so refreshing. Those like me who are bloody-minded enough to be dissatisfied with the ghastly uniform mush that is spewed out by the media, and take the trouble to seek out the actual data for ourselves, will have few surprises in Hudson’s general gist: the surprise is in his being allowed to say it and our being able to hear it through the censoring stranglehold that grips all news these days. This video has of course been taken off YouTube because, his being an actuary and therefore highly skilled at disentangling such matters, he has brought all our suspicions into ultra-high focus and crushed most of the lies we have been told.

When will people get it through their heads that by silencing, or attempting to silence, a contrary opinion they weaken their own credibility? The truth will eventually come out; they must know the truth will come out; the most worrying thing is that they might be attempting to achieve something else first (it’s a familiar pattern). If that something else depends on the temporary preservation of a pack of lies it doesn’t say anything encouraging about the nature of that something else.

Trey Gowdy spellbinds

There is a small group of people whose speeches I go out of my way to watch, whether or not I plan to cover them in this blog. In fact they all tend to have been here often enough for me to feel guilty about the self-indulgence of taking time watching them at all. Trey Gowdy is one such. When he was a US Congressman I saw many stunning speeches, and critiqued three of them – here, here and here. Then he retired from Congress and I occasionally saw him interviewed, but what speeches he may have made seemed not to appear on line.

Then I saw this one, new and not a political speech. Not expecting to cover it here, I went and watched. I have now watched it several times and will watch it more. He is seen delivering a talk at the Second Baptist Church, Houston at the end of June 2020.

The church is led by Dr Ed Young who delivers the introduction. He describes Gowdy as a ‘gifted communicator’ and even if I’d never heard of Gowdy I’d be interested because when it comes to speaking Dr Young is himself no slouch. Shooting from the hip, which immediately labels him a proper speaker, he speaks with respect, warmth and humour. Also there are technical details like his measured rhythm, his timing, and the way he speaks through a smattering of applause.

At 4:45 Gowdy goes to the lectern and places upon it a few sheets of paper whose function seems to be only to keep the lectern warm, because I don’t think he looks at them till he folds them forty minutes later at the end.

He spends about seven minutes, opening with a humorous story. It’s a great joke, which I first heard with two of the personalities being Edward Heath and Harold Wilson – yep nearly fifty years ago. It is strong enough to withstand the passing of the years, but not perhaps to cross The Atlantic in this form. In the telling you need to include personalities and circumstances to which your audience can so easily relate that it has to be essentially parochial, an augmented in-joke. His audience loves it.

Seamlessly, at 11:50 he swings into his main theme with the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” This unmistakeable sentence from the Declaration of Independence, and Independence Day being only a few days away his theme is independence, personal independence. He addresses it from the standpoint of three factors, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Without doubt any trainee of mine will instantly recognise the value of that structure, how it makes speaking without notes for forty minutes really simple and how he can take the audience with him all the way.

But great communication is more than a neat structure. Gowdy injects a magical alchemy of personal reminiscence, literary allusion, masterful imagery, and thorough horse-sense wisdom, delivered with a superb instinct for measured pace. The occasional giant pause enables important points to sink in but is never so long as to lose his audience. He deploys humour with a formula of little-and-often and it is always delivered dead-pan and thrown away.

Elbert Hubbard is credited as having observed that –

The Highest Applause is Silence

Throughout this speech you could hear an ant licking its lips. The audience is spellbound, as am I. This forty minutes is a life lesson for anyone.

At 43:25 Dr Young reclaims the stage to summarise and conclude.