In 2008, at Queen’s Hall in Parliament House in Melbourne, Australia, an audience was treated to a speech from Gianna Jessen. The day was 8 September, the eve of a debate to decriminalise abortion in the State of Victoria.
Gianna Jessen exists because she confounded a Planned Parenthood abortionist by being born alive.
My having no medical training I cannot confirm whether her suffering from Cerebral Palsy is a legacy of the attempts made to thwart her birth, but I am qualified to declare that the condition doesn’t impede the quality of her speaking in public. Or if it does then heaven knows how well she would have been able to speak otherwise. My word, but she’s good!
And she wastes no time in demonstrating her skill. The timing of her big pauses, the first as early as 1:36, is nano-second perfect, and she is already getting laughs when others would still be battling their hump.
I tell my trainees, and I’ve said it before on this blog, that passion is worth bucketfuls of technique; but the ideal is to have both. Jessen has both, but far more importantly she is prepared to express her passion with vehemence. She has plenty to be passionate about.
Passion, brilliant timing, and laughs: it’s a formula whose result is spellbinding
Tomas Schuman was the adopted nom de plume of Soviet KGB operative Yuri Alexandrovich Bezmenov after he defected from the Soviet Union in 1970. He was given asylum in Canada, studied political science for two years at the university of Toronto, and afterwards worked as a journalist..
In Los Angeles in 1983 he delivered this lecture.
He’s a proper speaker! All he holds in his hands is a piece of chalk for writing on the blackboard behind him. Even today, speaking without notes is regarded in some quarters as a bit of a circus trick; in 1983 it was considered almost on a par with black magic. Here he shoots from the hip for more than an hour, because he knows that – far from magic – it is dead easy.
On the other hand this speech is spooky in its prescience. We today possess thirty-seven years of hindsight that was not available to him, yet we find his projections to be frighteningly accurate. There are several occasions when he delivers shivers to the spine, one such begins at 09:09.
Let us not overlook, however, that his political studies at Toronto, dovetailing with his inside knowledge of the workings of Lubyanka Square, must have given him an unequalled insight into international shenanigans. His professors at Toronto would have been well advised to have requested tutorials from him. They probably squandered the opportunity, but we can listen and learn.
His central theme is that the most effective invasions are not from force of arms but from subversion, and this speech analyses how it is achieved. It begins with demoralisation and it culminates in crisis.
Lacking our hindsight he didn’t know that the Iron Curtain was destined to come down eight years after his speech, yet his prescience still holds because the subversives continue indoctrinating with their revolting dogma.
Being a very old video, the picture goes rather haywire at about 38:50. I strongly advise you to stay with it though, because the sound remains sound, and worth hearing, and the picture returns to normality after about ten minutes. Also, after that, you won’t want to miss what he says at 53:50.
If the Sahara ever becomes a socialist state there’ll be a shortage of sand
I don’t think you should miss any of it. I shall probably listen to this several times more.
The Senate Judiciary Committee began its confirmation hearing a week ago on 12 October with an opening statement by Sen. Josh Hawley.
As Judge Coney Barrett will not be speaking at this point, her face is largely covered by a mask. Hawley’s opening sentences of welcome are warm and friendly, and Coney Barrett smiles in response. How do we know that a masked person is smiling? Because the person in question smiles with her eyes. I find that appealing and significant.
Hawley congratulates her on how calmly she has coped with the nomination process this far, and swings immediately into how the media, and some politicians have focussed on her Catholicism, and whether that will influence her legal decisions. My reaction is that surely no one reaches this legal level if their reputation contains even a sniff of that sort, but this is not where Hawley is going.
Hawley (a lawyer himself) goes to Article VI of the US Constitution which specifically prohibits any religious test attaching to office, and so we get a Civics lecture. He makes the point that being an Article, this precedes the Bill of Rights and accordingly is a cornerstone of the very edifice of the United States. (It occurs to me therefore that any questions that are put to Coney Barrett about her faith are unconstitutional regardless of her answers.) He hails this freedom of faith as being one of the hallmarks of American Exceptionalism.
Hailing, as I do, from a country where even today the monarch or even someone too near it may not be a catholic (not that the monarch has any political power) I marvel at the foresight and wisdom of the US Founding Fathers at building this, nearly a quarter of a millennium ago, into the very bones of their body politic.
This is a good speech, looking forward to constructive questions concerning Coney Barrett’s legal credentials, legal philosophy, and her approach to the law. Hawley closes with the fervent wish that this confirmation process will see the final cessation of any faith issues attaching to appointment to office.
The 2019 CPAC – The Conservative Political Action Conference – was held at the Gaylord National Resort in Oxon Hill, Maryland. One of the speakers was Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of Susan B. Anthony List, and author ofLife is Winning.
I didn’t chance upon this speech: I went looking for it. I had heard Dannenfelser being interviewed by Ann McElhinney on the Ann & Phelim Scoop, one of my favourite podcasts. Dannenfelser was articulate and engaging being interviewed, so I wanted to see how well she spoke from the platform.
Why the script? I’ve heard her spontaneously speaking fluently, persuasively, even movingly with an interviewer, so what makes her think she needs bloody paper to speak with an audience?
In fairness she isn’t alone. I’ve lost count of the speakers on this blog that are manifestly capable of losing the paper like a proper speaker, but don’t realise it. They don’t realise that merely by structuring the material into a secure mind-map they can enable themselves to stand and look at, and spontaneously engage with, their audience with no paper in the way.
Then the speech would become a live conversation as opposed to a regurgitation of something she did earlier. What she is doing here is the speaking equivalent of miming to a record. She’s reading the script pretty well, but compared to what she should be doing it’s sterile and forgettable. I’d defy any listener an hour later to repeat in any detail what this speech says. The reason is that when she wrote it she wasn’t addressing an audience but a computer screen.
And, though she’d never believe it till she’d been shown how and tried it, shooting a speech from the hip is not only far more persuasive but actually easier.
For me, witnessing this, it is agony because the speech could not be more important. About twenty years ago, in Britain, one of the chief political topics involved the banning of fox-hunting. I remember arguing with a left-leaning friend who declared that posterity would regard hunting the way we regard slavery. I protested that it was nothing like as evil.
But abortion is.
I’ve never forgotten how I wept when listening to the self-same Ann McElhinney’s speech when I covered it on this blog two years ago. I believe that future generations will regard our wholesale slaughter of unborn babies with the same revulsion with which today we regard slavery.
If you consider that term ‘wholesale slaughter’ to be too strong, what else would you call close to a million killings per year in the USA alone? And spare me that disgusting slogan “my body, my choice”: the foetus has its own, separate DNA. It’s already a different person. Its body belongs to itself, and no one is asking its choice.
Marjorie Dannenfelser is doing an immeasurably important job. I just want her to be even better at communicating it to audiences.
At Jacksonville University on November 3, 2016 – a handful of days before that year’s US Presidential Election – the Public Policy Institute’s Hesburgh Lecture was delivered by Law Professor, Amy Coney Barrett. She was there to discuss the questions and ramifications of the choices the new POTUS would have in replacing Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court Justice who had recently died.
Here we are today, less than a handful of weeks from the next Presidential election. We know who was appointed by President Trump to succeed Scalia: it was Neil Gorsuch. We also remember the outrageous pantomime in 1918 that accompanied the nomination and appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to succeed Anthony Kennedy. And now, with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Trump has nominated her successor to be Amy Coney Barrett.
The chance to hear the nominee herself – albeit four years ago – lecturing on this is too good to squander.
The Lecture is introduced first by Rick Mullaney, Director of the Institute, who hands over at 1:38 to Pat Kilbane whose task is to introduce the speaker herself. She begins at 4:07, speaks till 18:08, and this is followed by Q&A.
I am often asked about speakers’ mannerisms, and what can be done about them. Over the decades my position has changed a little and now reached a point where essentially I tell speakers not to worry about the existence of a mannerism, only that the audience has noticed it. If you are interesting enough any mannerism becomes unnoticeable to the audience. So what you do about a mannerism is you make your talk more interesting.
Can your vocal quality be a mannerism? If so, Barrett has a mannerism. In the first seconds of my hearing her speak it was almost like Lina Lamont, played by Jean Hagen, in Singin’ in the Rain. That voice has a sharp, acidic, squeaky quality that, despite my conviction on the subject, had me thinking she needed voice coaching like Margaret Thatcher. I was wrong: my conviction was right. Within a minute or two the sound of her voice had become irrelevant, swamped by the value of what she was saying. I never noticed it again. Were I advising her I would tell her to ignore it.
When you have an audience that mixes experts with lay people, leaving you wondering where to pitch the technical scholarship of your arguments, you should do two things: pitch to the least expert and tell the audience you are going to. Barrett does both. There then remains the Einstein challenge: Einstein famously said that if you can’t explain it to a five-year-old you don’t really understand it yourself. What I know about law in general, and the US Constitution and SCOTUS in particular, equates roughly to the square root of not a lot. Yet I managed easily to follow everything she said, and was so absorbed that when she finished and sat with Rick Mullaney for the Q&A, I stayed with it.
It was interesting, enlightening, and fascinating to hear her four-years-younger self explaining to us what could now be facing her.
Is she a good candidate for the position? Don’t know: don’t care. I know nothing of the subject and have zero influence over it. But I can say with a little authority that she is a fine speaker.
Early in 2015 the Oxford Union held a debate on the motion, This House Believes the United States is Institutionally Racist. One of the speakers opposing the motion was David Webb.
Webb opens by reading a quotation whose sentiments are often expressed as if they are a new discovery. The quotation comes from Booker T. Washington (1856 – 1915), and makes the point that supposed grievances are too often fostered by those whose livelihoods depend on the grievances.
Webb’s speaking delivery might at first seem ponderous, but very quickly I realise that this measured way of speaking is a function of his economy with words and his refusal to get caught up in wild histrionics. Also it is consistent with his stated determination always to dig to the root of a problem as distinct from leaping on emotional bandwagons.
Though it is slightly startling to find this message from five and a half years ago resonating so strongly today, I like Webb’s sober and mature use of language. It is a pleasure to hear it.
“Best Speech of all Time” howled the strap-line. “Oh yeah?” I thought, “how many times have I seen that claim?”
With the thousands of speeches I’ve watched on line I couldn’t estimate how many were heralded by superlatives, but I could count on one hand how many lived up to them. The best speeches tend to speak for themselves rather than asking clickbait headlines to do it for them.
Then I saw that it was Simon Sinek. I’ve seen some very interesting things from Sinek, I’ve even given some trainees the link to his Golden Circles TED talk. Suddenly I was less cynical.
He’s speaking about leadership. I can remember only one previous speech on this blog, claiming specifically to train leaders. That speaker wouldn’t recognise leadership qualities if they stood up in her soup. I have better expectations this time.
Regular readers of this blog will immediately know my first impression.
But there’s much more to support that. He is manifestly far more focussed on his message, his audience, and how the one is influencing the other, than he is on himself. That indicates the ideal speaker’s mindset, but there’s more still. His material is beautifully constructed for maximum digestibility. His mix of Need-to-Know and Nice-to-Know, hard data leavened by illustrative anecdotage and parallels, is really masterly. He’s a joy to watch.
My problem is that, with a blog to write and my rhetor instincts glowing from the quality I am witnessing, I have no time to reflect on his arguments, though what I have registered deserves reflection. I must remember to return to listen again at my leisure.
So is it the best speech of all time? No, of course not. The nature of this medium means that there can never be such a thing, but it is really very good indeed.
What am I doing? Any critique or comment from me regarding this speech, its content or delivery, would be outrageously impertinent.
The only thing that I have that Reagan didn’t is a lot of hindsight, and I can hardly bear to consider it.
Would anyone have believed, when this speech was delivered, that thirty seven years later there would be leaders of industry, sport, politics and even churches genuflecting to terrorist street gangs, and political representatives of US cities and states – including the state of which he had been governor – would be imitating the worst excesses of vermin-infested third-world dictatorships? Could anyone have imagined that leading mainstream media would condone infanticide, and be so brazenly partisan in their politics as to describe looting, rape, arson and murder as “peaceful protest”, or that leading political parties in western countries would again have raised the disgusting spectre of anti-semitism?
The only thing to cling to is the hope that the silent majority will cease to be silent.
Kotkin has very recently published The Coming of Neo-Feudalism, a warning to the global middle class, and there are several interesting recent interviews with him to be found on that subject, but this blog is about public speaking. Also I am keen to learn what he was projecting ten years ago.
There’s a double introduction: Dan Atkinson introduces Mary Walshok who in turn introduces Joel Kotkin, so we learn two layers of ethos before the main event even begins at 4:10.
Beginning to talk while still on the way to the lectern is a trick we’ve seen before on this blog (though it was a long time ago). Researching other speeches by Kotkin suggests to me that it may be a habit of his. It’s a good one, conveying a range of positive things like enthusiasm to get on with it, and it’s a neat device for relaxing the audience.
He leans on the lectern, and regularly looks down at it, but something tells me that this is a mannerism as distinct from his need to keep prompting himself by looking at whatever might be written there. If I am right, then he has nothing to concern him. Mannerisms are irrelevant unless they bother the audience, and they won’t do that if the talk is interesting enough. Within a short while even I am caught up in what he has to say, so it’s a non-problem. I am sure he’s shooting from the hip – and therefore in my eyes a proper speaker.
I stop making rhetor-style notes within five minutes of his starting, and simply sit and listen till he stops at 42:50. At that stage he swings into Q&A.
Even with the benefit of ten years of hindsight, I found this very interesting and well-delivered. It will be even more interesting in ten more years.
I want to cry “Hallelujah”, just as she cries it but for different reasons. A speech that does not faff about with meaningless preambles conveys immediate confidence in its message. It is also a wonderful “humpbuster” for reasons with which I will not bore you here. Yes you certainly do need to introduce yourself, but you don’t need to do it right away. Do it once you are on a roll, just as she does.
It’s a wonderful self-introduction. “I am a nurse, and a social scientist by intention […] a baroness by astonishment […] I was the first baroness I had ever met.” I am sure that she has used this introduction routine often, because it has all the hallmarks of repeated road-testing to make it as good as it is. So much the better.
I already expect to enjoy this speech, because I feel that I am in very secure hands.
Meanwhile, wearing my rhetor hat, I am briefly concerned about the device she is holding. She looks at it often. Surely that thing is too small to contain a screen prompting her. I quickly realise that it’s the remote control for her slides which we never see. Later, watching her eyes makes me suspect that she’s prompted by an autocue of some sort, and then I conclude that it’s a slave screen showing her the slide that the audience sees. She occasionally uses it to read out mainly things others have said. She’s a proper speaker, shooting the speech from the hip.
It’s refreshing to see someone wearing their Christian faith so openly. The conference theme is Courageous in the ways of the Lord and she repeatedly commends the courage of brutally oppressed, war-torn churches. She produces a stream of jaw-dropping examples of courage through Christian faith around the world; and while marvelling at them you find a less-obvious common theme dawning on you. Story after story is so graphically described, because she bears eye-witness. She was there.
Caroline Cox talks the talk so well because she has tirelessly and fearlessly walked the walk, and continues to do so.
Because we don’t see the screen we don’t see the video clip that concludes her talk. Though that’s a pity, I have to say that her message of courage through faith had already come across loud and clear.