The congregation that gathered in St Henry’s Church, Buckeye, Arizona on Sunday 7 February most probably didn’t guess that they were shortly to be witness to a homily that would become a viral internet phenomenon.
Father Billy Kosco delivered something that has been viewed on numerous online platforms nearly one million times, and generated many thousands of comments – nearly all of them positive, in fact I gave up searching for a negative.
I tell my trainees that passion is worth bucketfuls of technique, in fact I have secret ways of proving it to them.
In the last few weeks I have twice covered Pro-Life speeches, here and here, a detail that seems to have not escaped the notice of YouTube’s algorithms. I found myself being offered another.
Patricia Sandoval, author of Transfigured, delivered this speech on 10 February, 2018, in the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Turlock, California. Its write-up suggests that it is pretty powerful, but on the grounds that this subject can be uncomfortable I was prepared – at least I thought I was.
The video begins with post-speech interviews with members of her audience, a section that obviously is building up for us the speech that is to follow. At 3:35 she begins.
This isn’t the first theocentric speech I’ve discussed here. In March 2013 on this blog I covered an Oxford Union Debate, dubbed The God Debate. Well known thinkers had a right royal ding-dong about Christianity. I’ve had other arguments of varying ferocity on the subject. I’ve had a speech from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Yet I think this is only the second speaker on this blog to begin with a prayer, and the other was a Hindu.
Over the years many trainees have expressed surprise that I do not criticise them, as others have, for waving their arms “too much”. Exaggerated gestures bother me only when they are phoney. I detest phoney. If you are naturally an arm-waver then you must follow your nature, to refrain from doing so would be … phoney.
Sandoval’s nature seems to dictate that her hands are relaxed only when they are busy. And it’s not just her hands that are expressive, she speaks with her eyes, with her face, in fact with her whole body. This woman is so deeply into the driving seat of her message, so filled with its passion, that watching and listening becomes compulsive.
She epitomises my dictum that passion is worth bucketfuls of technique, but the ideal is to have both. She has both: she is a very fine speaker, made even better by white hot passion.
The passion is born out of the life she has led, wherein she had three abortions in quick succession, went downhill, lost her faith, lost everything else – and I mean everything including her hair – till she hit, so to speak, the rocks on the seabed. At that point her soul cried out for help which came via someone called Bonny.
It would be impertinent for me to attempt to recount her story when she does it so well. It’s not a pretty story, it needs a very strong stomach in places, but it is uplifting.
Including a three-minute video at the end it lasts almost exactly an hour. There follow a range of supportive snippets, including a gentleman who tells us that her book is even tougher than her speech. Fair warning!
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
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.
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.
As a courtesy I habitually supply explanatory links for people, places and publications involved in my blog posts. That’s the first time in more than 460 posts that I have been so impressed as to reproduce words from a venue’s website. In April 2019, at Hillsdale College Andrew Klavan delivered the speech we feature today.
Declaration of interest: I’m a fan of Klavan’s, having discovered him years ago via his Revolting Truth videos. I listen to his podcast, The AndrewKlavan Show with its ridiculous opening signature song, preceded by an even more ridiculous one-minute flight of absurdity that sometimes reduces even him to hysterics. He makes me laugh, makes me think, keeps me abreast of the goings-on over the pond. I also appreciated his autobiographical book, The Great Good Thing. I reveal all this to warn that there’s a danger that you might find me fawning.
Klavan begins at 2:00, following an introduction by Abby Liebing. She reads her introduction, and that’s ok given that introductions are more than 80% factual information. However, if I had guided her, I would have urged her to dare to face the audience and not the script when giving us her name because I’m certain she knows her own name well enough not to read it. Yes, of course, the paper is a security blanket; but we want to see her face.
Klavan’s speech ends at 33:12. There follows nearly the same amount of time for Q&A.
He reads his speech, and suddenly I’m torn. He reads better and more expressively than almost anyone I’ve heard. In fact in passing I reckon virtually all of his podcast is read from a script; but you have to listen very closely to spot it because he has really mastered the art of writing in spoken – a subtly different language from written – English.
The writing is magnificent. For instance at 10:10 Klavan brings up the question of abortion, and a few seconds later gives us in just one, short, jaw-dropping sentence the strongest argument I’ve heard that abortion must not be the mother’s choice. And it’s based not on theology but biology.
Would any of the speech’s brilliantly economic choice of words have been compromised if he had shot this speech from the hip? Possibly, but that would have been offset by the benefit of the words being transparently spontaneous. It would have been the same brain that conceived the words, albeit without the luxury of dwelling over each phrase, so right there is the compromise to be judged. The freshness of spontaneity or the sparkle of economy? An uncut diamond or a polished sapphire? That’s why I’m torn.
We can compare the two. At the beginning, from 2:42 Klavan morphs from the end of a brief thank-fest into some spontaneous musing on the state of society and whether it is appropriate to laugh at it. At 3:36 he moves to his script, and the colour minutely fades.
But now I doff my rhetor hat, become an ordinary audience member, and tell you that it is a stupendous speech. There are points here and there when I’d take issue with the detail of some of his arguments, but that’s part of the stimulus that makes it so enjoyable.
I often press the stop button when Q&A begins, but thinking I’d sample a little of it I then sampled all. Hillsdale College yields up some excellent questions. Most of them from students, but there is one questioner who describes himself as “seasoned”. We can see only the side of his head, but I reckon he’s slightly more seasoned than I, and I am more seasoned than Klavan. At any rate, Klavan for once is put on the back foot. His answer is pretty good but his body language suggests that it’s been a narrow thing. I’m glad I saw that.
The National March for Life is an annual event in Canada, taking place in the nation’s capital of Ottawa. It is joined by thousands, and some of them attend the Rose Dinner that accompanies it.
In 2016 the March and the Dinner took place on Thursday 12 May, and the Keynote speaker was Obianuju Ekeocha.
In this speech, including its delivery – especially the delivery – there is nothing I can fault, though I will make a suggestion in due course.
The construction of the arguments is blindingly good. The narrative thread leads inexorably towards a single sentence which is introduced shortly before the end, but is then repeated and repeated till there is not the slightest doubt that it is the FACE of the speech.
Stop the killing
Yet the narrative doesn’t travel in a straight line. It meanders slightly and, in the process, highlights and scoops up secondary messages to become key to her primary message. There is an excellent example when she talks of the Rwanda massacre. Beginning at 13:16 she recounts how the victims were widely described as cockroaches. When you dehumanise people it is easier to kill them. That thread is left hanging till she reclaims it with huge impact much later.
Tempted though I am to offer more of the legion of such examples, it’s better that you should simply absorb the brilliance of his speech for yourself. There is so much to learn from it.
Likewise her delivery is stupendously good. Her pace, her timing, her phrasing, her instinct for speaking with her audience rather than to them, are as skilled as I’ve seen anywhere.
I am not altogether surprised. I do more of my distance coaching with people in sub-Saharan Africa than anywhere else in the world, and the talent I find from there is world-beating. I have long held the view that the key to Africa’s development is for the west to get the hell out of their way. The road to Africa’s hell is paved with the west’s good intentions. Ok it’s more complicated than that, but not much.
As to this speech I have just one suggestion, and any trainee of mine will already have spotted it.
She begins with a thank-fest and I don’t think she should, because she shows hump symptoms for the first minute or two. A thank-fest is important, laudable, desirable, necessary, all those things of course; but there is no divine edict that says you should open by thanking people, and a host of reasons for not doing so. I won’t bore you with them here: you’ll just have to take my word for it.
The thank-fest is like the titles and opening credits to a film. They usually appear at the opening, but not always. With some films there is an episode that precedes the credits. If Uju (I understand that to be her nickname) had started without any preamble by going straight into the significance of the music that had accompanied her approach to the lectern, broken off at an appropriate place after about two minutes, swung into her thank-fest including her greeting to the various dignitaries, and then returned to talking about the music I think she would have been far more comfortable, and therefore audience-engaging, for the opening five minutes. There are many reasons, but there isn’t room here.
I could easily try to suggest actual precise places to situate the thank-fest, and ways to drop into and out of it, but what’s the point? She has dramatically shown that her own instincts would make judgements at least as good as mine.
In 2009 a twelve-year-old girl wrote an impassioned English class assignment. The assignment became a speech that was posted on YouTube and went viral. It was on the subject of abortion.
As we have often been told, the Pro-Choice movement cares for women and their right to choose. The death threats that immediately started being aimed at this girl and her family must therefore be classified as caring death-threats.
From the classic James Bond opening, via the epistrophe that begins at 0:53, through the disturbing statistics, and concluding with the quote by Horton (the Dr Seuss elephant) this is by any standards an outstanding speech.
Texas Alliance for Life hosted, in Austin on 5 October, 2017, a talk from Ann McElhinney. If you click the link on her name you will reach a page devoted to both her and Phelim McAleer, her husband. The pair are a formidable and fearless team dedicated to investigative journalism and the search for truth behind news stories, and it was a close race as to which of them would be examined in this posting. Phelim will undoubtedly feature before very long.
She is speaking both on the book they wrote about Kermit Gosnell and also their film on the same subject.
There’s something about the Irish accent! Perhaps it’s just memories of happy times I have spent there, but for me the sound is immediately friendly. Phelim, her husband, has Northern Irish vowels but she is clearly from the Republic, west coast I reckon.
Her start is likewise audience-friendly. This sort of apparently scatty sorting-out of technical bits and pieces is a great way of fighting nerves. I tell trainees that relaxing your audience is a very effective way of relaxing yourself. She has an important opening question for her audience, but she camouflages its weight behind the performance of technical faffing around. Scatty she ain’t! This is one smart woman. Friendly she may be, but only if you are on the side of the angels.
Silence from the audience in response to a brief and unexplained section beginning at 04:10 referring to Representative Murphy shows that this Texas audience doesn’t know the story. If you want enlightenment you could start by looking here.
This is my type of speaker! She has notes to which she refers for slides and things, but essentially her speaking is all shooting from the hip. Even more important than that is that I detect no vestige of speech mode. What you see is what you get, and what you get is the genuine person. She lets all her idiosyncrasies hang out, because she couldn’t care less about herself: all that matters is her message and whether her audience is getting it. That is the ideal speaker’s mindset, and it is what makes her so powerful. Could she tidy up the structure? Perhaps a tiny bit, but the narrative thread is so strong that we are swept over all the bumps in the road.
And the road certainly is bumpy! This is not a pretty story, but by heaven it’s an important one. On this blog over the years, in 360+ postings, I have covered some very valuable speeches. I rate this in the top three, maybe higher. People absolutely need to learn what she has to tell.
Watch this speech, and at the end you may find yourself like me in a puddle of tears.