Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.
That quote has been attributed to several people, including Ambrose Bierce and Groucho Marx, but it is generally a good piece of advice regardless.
On the other hand, as I tell my public speaking trainees, well directed passion is worth buckets of technique. In this posting I want to examine a speech delivered as recently as the 29th of January in the British Parliament. It was on the subject of the Iraq war inquiry. The speaker, George Galloway, gets very passionate.
Galloway is not noted as a shrinking violet. Many will remember his appearing before a US Senate hearing in May 2005 in which, not in the least over-awed, he hit back hard at all accusations. Here it is, if you want a reminder.
So what did you expect – an apparently mindless rant? He’s done it before, after all. No, Galloway is far too smart an operator to make that mistake here. This speech is tailored to this audience. It follows the second Cardinal rule in my book.
This is statesmanlike, passionate as all hell but statesmanlike.
These days, ‘statesmanlike’ is too often held to mean ‘bland’. And read from a script, God help us! But Galloway shoots this entire speech effortlessly and with complete confidence from the hip. And, incidentally, his diction is such that he loses not a syllable. He is as capable as I’ve seen. He is in the top 5% of speakers I’ve covered on this blog, and I tip my hat to him.
He observes all the arcane parliamentary niceties of terminology, quotes past legislators, and bestows credit towards even his political opponents when he deems it appropriate. He quotes wise saws and modern instances. He demonstrates that you don’t need a script to deploy elegant wordplay, like the distinction he makes between ‘false’ and ‘falsehood’.
For all that, this is mighty powerful! My own political opinions could not be more at odds with his, yet I am hard pressed to contest a word he says. He calls the endless procrastination over the Chilcot report a scandal, and so it is. He places the blame on Parliament, and so he should. But the Westminster bubble will ignore him as it ignores all inconvenience and will continue to do till the electorate properly exercises its democratic muscle.
It’s refreshing to see sincere passion in a politician, but I have to tell you that you ain’t seen nothing. My next posting is planned to be on a speech by a politician on the other side of the Atlantic. Passion? It makes this look like wafer-thin cucumber sandwiches and Earl Grey from bone china. Come back in a couple of days, and hold on to your hat.