Shmuley Boteach persuades with powerful histrionics.

The Oxford Union held a debate on the motion:  This House Believes Hamas is a Greater Obstacle to Peace Than Israel. Shmuley Boteach spoke on the proposition.

Rabbi Boteach puts in a ten second pause at the beginning. An opening pause is very powerful. Counter-intuitively it actually gets the audience’s attention and is a good reducer of nerves. Ten seconds is huge, and I think it works for him.

An overt gag at the very front of a speech is not a good idea. As soon as the audience become aware that this is a gag, there is pressure on them to laugh – which paradoxically makes it less likely that they will do so. It’s a good gag, well told, and deserves a bigger laugh, but now you know why it doesn’t get it. It would work better a little later in the speech, but it would have less point then: its point now is the injection of poison into the Middle East. Boteach’s skill as a speaker is already abundantly clear, so I have no doubt that he had a debate with himself along the lines of the early part of this paragraph. He knows all that stuff and simply made a policy decision.

Halfway through his second minute he launches an extended symploce on the words “as if you […] bad people”. No sooner has that run its course than he is into anaphora – “if a Jew did that…”. Does he know these obscure terms? I have no idea, but as I made clear in this posting it’s not necessary to know the words to deploy the figures of speech..

He delivers with histrionic fervour. This is theatre! He doesn’t have quite the operatic tone of Cornel West, but being less distracting he is probably more persuasive. He is phenomenally persuasive

Please do not infer that I think this performance is just artifice. There is no doubt in my mind that Boteach means every word from the depths of his soul.

And as a speaker he is outstanding.

Thatcher’s last speech – The Mummy Returns

On 22 May 2001, at a general election rally in Plymouth, Baroness Thatcher came out of retirement long enough to take the stage for what was probably her last big speech. My speaking students will understand when I say that the speech had a Face – “The Mummy Returns“.

There is a transcript of the speech downloadable here.

Say “The two Ronnies” to most British people and they will immediately think of Messrs Barker and Corbett, whose comedy partnership is a TV legend; but to those of us involved with British Theatre in the mid-sixties there was an earlier pair of Ronnies. Ron Grainer and Ronald Millar collaborated on two West End musicals, Robert & Elizabeth, which opened in 1964 ran for nearly a thousand performances and has been revived several times since, and On the Level which opened in 1966 and died shortly afterwards. I briefly assisted Ronnie Grainer during that time: a sort of unpaid internship, sharpening pencils and making tea.

What has that riveting nugget to do with this speech?  Only that Ronnie Millar went on to become Thatcher’s speechwriter, for which he was awarded a knighthood. It was he who was credited with “The Lady’s Not for Turning”. He didn’t write this speech, he died in 1998, though I think he would have approved.

Thatcher lived in an era when formal oratory was still the norm and today’s style of conversational sincerity had yet to take hold. Everyone used to read their speeches from scripts, and delivery was relatively stiff. What is remarkable about this bit of speaking is how modern it sounds. Though she is reading it, she imbues it with much of the conversational sincerity that today we expect. Her speaking skill was ahead of its time.

I have a sneaking suspicion that she might have written this herself. Her managerial style was hands-on, so she would always have been closely involved with the preparation of her speeches; and when this came to be prepared she had time on her hands.

I’d like to think that she authored the description of New Labour at 4:37 – “rootless, empty, and artificial”. What a withering dismissal, and all in a little triad! (The trouble is that it neatly describes most of the posturing pygmies that people all parliamentary parties these days.) And what about this alliterative triad a minute later – “the bitter, brawling bully”?

There are several stumbles and losses-of-place, but this is a tendency when people read speeches – particularly if they are conscientious enough to raise their eyes regularly to their audience. That is why I liberate all my trainees from the tyranny of paper. If your memory contains a structure that is strong, simple  and clear enough you don’t lose your place and you can shoot your speech from the hip maintaining eye-contact with the audience all the time.

She is enough of a pro to massage the egos of her audience, not just for being Conservatives but for living in Plymouth. At 10:29 she begins her peroration with an extended anaphora on the word ‘Plymouth’.

She was very good at this; and it is a lesson for us, when we embrace new fashions for things like Public Speaking, to grab the best of the new but without rolling up behind us the carpet of the old.

Danah Zohar leaves us wanting more

Danah Zohar spoke at the India Today Conclave 2008. If you have happened upon this post of mine concerning Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, and if you clicked the link to the second half of the speech in question, you might have seen that following him was the speech that we are going to examine today. Zohar begins at 15:50.

Danah Zohar is a very skilled speaker. She structures her material very clearly: she shoots principally from the hip and speaks with passion. She adeptly deploys a range of rhetorical figures of speech, in particular anaphora, thus giving her delivery an elegance that is almost poetic. By any standards this is good speaking.

Why then do shots of the audience show us too many people fidgeting, and obviously not absorbed? Could it be that the assertion she quotes at 16:05 – “in India we love controversy” is mere wishful thinking?

I don’t think so. This is not controversial. It could be: it should be, but it comes out as frankly rather banal. Having given you, in one paragraph, my rhetor’s summary of the quality of her actual speaking I shall now doff my rhetor hat and look at her message from the standpoint of a seeker after truth – me. Her message is muddled and unconvincing.

At 16:30 as part of her opening she says –

“I don’t accept the division between the spiritual and the physical, and much of my words will be about how to use the dynamic interaction between the spiritual and the physical …”

I wonder whether she – or anyone else – can explain how there can be a “dynamic interaction” between two things which, not being divided, are therefore one.

Watching it, I mentally brushed this question aside, as I wanted to learn what she had to say; and at first I was thirstily soaking up the theory. I felt that here was a great deal upon which to ponder. I still think there is a great deal upon which to ponder, but that somewhere along the line she has partially lost her own plot – or at least she had on this day in 2008. I found myself developing an impression that the purity of her message had become contaminated by her need to develop a brand for the corporate speaking market.

As she worked her way down twelve essential principles, and as muddles and self-contradictions continued to appear all over the place, I began eagerly to hope that before the end she would draw threads together to explain. But midway through principle 8 – independence of thought – the video ran out in the middle of a sentence.

There is a well-established showbiz principle that I never tire of quoting to my trainees: “Always leave them wanting more”. Nevertheless I’ll bet you anything you like tha

Sam Parnia – soul speaker

On 11 Setember, 2008, Dr Sam Parnia addressed an audience at the United Nations in New York. The title of the talk was Unravelling the Mystery of the Self.

Dr Parnia, a critical care physician, has had considerable experience in the revival of cardiac arrest patients and therefore exposure to the accounts of those who have had Near Death Experience. His interest and study of this brought him to the attention of the Nour Foundation, who work to find the distinction – if there is one – between the mind and the brain.

Among the comments under one of Parnia’s talks, posted on YouTube, someone has asked “Can a light-bulb analyse electricity?”.  It’s a valid question, highlighting the circularity of the attempted process. Because of that circularity we may never know all the answers, but that is no reason to stop seeking.

I have made no secret in this blog of my interest in matters metaphysical. Therefore, with pen poised over my pad, I wait and see how long I can keep my dispassionate rhetor hat on.

The start disappoints me, not because of all the thankings which are mere courtesy, not because Parnia is showing me subtle but clear symptoms of nervousness – who  wouldn’t? – but because at 1:13 the camera cuts away to show us his visual slides. For two minutes and twenty seconds we see nothing but over-worded Power-point slides that add nothing to what he is saying and would be an irritating distraction if we could see him and are maddening when we can’t.

Also I want to strangle the sound-engineer who is allowing enough audio feedback through the system to make Parnia sound slightly tinny. Is it asking too much for the United Nations to operate their sound system at least as well as a reasonably competent English village hall?

I am slightly anxious that he is patronising his audience by speaking down to them, and hoping that he is just setting the stage for meatier stuff to follow, when he hits us with a lovely anaphora at 3:40 (“If you …”). I had thought he was reading the speech (yet was pleased that it appeared to be written in spoken English) but now I change my mind. That is a laptop on the lectern, and I believe it is a slave screen for him to see the slides without having to look round. If I am right, he is shooting from the hip and that anaphora was spontaneously uttered, which promises well. We are still very early in the speech, and once he settles down I am expecting him to be good.

And that is where my notes peter out almost entirely. The talk becomes fascinating, and I am riveted to it. Combine what he is saying with the revelations uttered by Dr Eben Alexander in one of my fairly recent postings, and the possibilities are wonderfully provocative.

Where is the ‘self’ (what I unfashionably still want to call the ‘soul’) when there is evidence that it may be distinct from the brain? He doesn’t pretend to know: he and his colleagues are working on experiments to verify or falsify evidence that there is any distinction. Once warmed up he recounts it very well, though a few little notes on my pad indicate that it could have been better.

I love a section at 19:40 where he performs a little act for a few seconds. That was brave, and good enough to be worth it; but the effort appears to throw him for a few seconds.

He repeatedly uses the word ‘phenomena’ as a singular, which sets my pedantic teeth on edge. He also repeatedly uses the phrase “if you think about it…”. I advise trainees to avoid this phrase as it implies to the audience that they don’t think enough. That may be true, but it’s not polite … if you think about it.

These are quibbles, because he delivered most of his talk well enough to sweep up a grumpy old rhetor with a story that absorbed and thoroughly excited him.

There is for me an interesting aside to this posting. I know of Dr Sam Parnia’s very existence only because he treated a close relative of mine a few months ago.

Ben Griffin – harnessed fury.

The Oxford Union recently held a debate to mark the 80th anniversary of probably the most (in)famous debate the Union has ever held – “This House would under no circumstances fight for its King and country”. We have seen the opening speech by Ben Sullivan for the motion, and Rory Stewart against it. Today we watch Ben Griffin’s contribution to the proposition.

Speak when you are angry, and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.                           Ambrose Bierce

That still picture of Griffin has cleverly selected the most benign facial expression in the video. His default is a ferocious scowl. Griffin is angry. His anger, however, is not “sudden, and quick in quarrel”. Griffin’s is long-term, cold, brooding, carefully considered fury. He has no plans to regret this speech.

If you do not know who he is, click his name in my first paragraph. You will find a bucketful of ethos. Right or wrong, Griffin has earned the right to speak as he does. In passing, while we are in my Glossary, just look at decorum and consider what he does to it.

This speech is profoundly uncomfortable for the listener; yet it is compulsive listening. Nearly nine minutes pass in a flash. We are left feeling battered and bruised but wiser.

At 4:00 Griffin launches into a long asyndeton catalogue of words that are so non-PC as to get him arrested anywhere else.

At 1:58 we have a close-up of Malcolm Rifkind. He has been British Secretary of State for Defence. What do we read into the intense concentration in his features? Is he thinking, “Yes, but”?  He has been in a position to view a bigger picture than Griffin; but I suspect he is welcoming an opportunity to be exposed to the stark reality of the coalface.

At 6:47 we have a close-up of a troubled Rory Stewart, the previous speaker. He is a politician but was a soldier. Though he is representing the opposing argument I get the strong impression that he and Griffin have at least as much common ground as disagreement.  I could say more, but here I must stick to Griffin.

What of Griffin as a speaker? He has so much to say that he epitomises the first chapter of my book, The Face & Tripod. We see how much that alone negates any failings elsewhere in his technique. What if I were asked to coach him? Would I try to improve his grammar or syntax? Would I hell! There are not that many mistakes, and those there are merely add muscle to the message (and that includes the single, hilarious malapropism). I might venture a few small adjustments to the sequence of the speech, but I am already basking in his use of anaphora and epistrophe. And what a peroration that is! Really my principal contribution would be to free him from his dependency on paper.

Meanwhile, it was a privilege to watch this speech. In fact the whole debate is shaping up with huge promise.

Rory Stewart – a copy-book speaker

The Oxford Union recently held a debate to mark the 80th anniversary of probably the most (in)famous debate the Union has ever held – “This House would under no circumstances fight for its King and country”. We have seen the opening speech by Ben Sullivan for the motion. Today we examine the first speech against the motion. It is delivered by Rory Stewart.

I concluded the critique on Ben Sullivan’s speech by hoping for his sake that subsequent speakers would be courteous enough to let him down lightly. In the first few seconds Stewart does exactly that. He has the strength to afford to be charitable.

Rory Stewart is a very, very good speaker.

It is not just the absence of any sort of paper assistance – shooting from the hip is easy if you know how. His good syntax notwithstanding, I’d be prepared to bet that this speech has never seen paper, and was principally composed in his head. He certainly hasn’t memorised it: the effortless way he digresses to quote the preceding speech shows that. Some might think the elegance of figures of speech suggest that it had been written down: there are a 2-element anaphora at 0:55, 3-element ones at 2:04, 2:26 and 5:50; and the last of these is immediately preceded by an anadiplosis (this doesn’t attempt to be a comprehensive catalogue because I was enjoying it so much that I stopped noticing). The ability spontaneously to produce things like this becomes a natural facility for those who read good literature. They work themselves into your subconscious by osmosis.

It is not just his masterful command of his subject matter – that is (or should be) a sine qua non for any speaker booked by the Oxford Union. That said, it warms my heart to see how confidently and smoothly the facts, figures and dates punctuate his talk.

It is not his unselfconscious enunciation which makes every word heard, nor the (rare) discipline that causes him to conclude comfortably within his time limit.

It is the laser-sharp focus that he brings to bear on his message and its effect on his audience. His mindset is exactly where it needs to be, and it makes him as near bullet-proof on the speaking platform as anyone should want to be. At one point, shortly before the end, Ben Sullivan, oblivious of how kind Stewart has been in only covertly disembowelling his emaciated arguments, asks for the floor, is courteously granted it, attempts to refute some point, and is gently trodden on. In technical terms I think Stewart may just be the best I have had on this blog.

He grabs you with his argument, and weaves his narrative spell around you.

He pitches his decorum exactly where it needs to be for this environment. The hard, cold facts are warmed by the humanity of the emotions that he recounts in those who went to fight Hitler. But still it is all a little formal – as befits the Oxford Union. That leads me to my only reservation. What would he be like in more of a bear-pit environment?

I may find the time to go looking.

Diana, Princess of Wales. A study in confidence.

HRH Charles Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer were married on 29 July, 1981. It is an easy date for me to remember because my second child was due to be born then at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, and we were given a special telephone number to use in order to get a police escort through the huge crowds if necessary. In the event my son announced his arrival just before dawn two days later, and we drove to the hospital through deserted streets.

Nearly eight years later on 18 May, 1989, Princess Diana made a speech for the charity, Turning Point. The subject was what was then called substance abuse.

The princess starts speaking at 1:58. You will want to go straight there, because the introduction by Nick Ross is virtually inaudible and anyway chopped up and garbled in this video (which is a relief because the little we can hear is not as good as a professional should be).

Too much of this speech is a copybook example of ghastly talking-headism and also dreadful over-enunciation. She is reading a script to which she may have applied some editing, but which she almost certainly didn’t write because she is evidently unhappy with much of the phrasing. The script is mainly in written, rather than spoken, English; she is reading it very badly with much of the phrasing and emphases wildly awry; too much of her enunciation sounds as if every – word – came – individually – wrapped; and apparently no one among her armies of advisers even knew how she should manipulate the actual paper. It is disastrous; I feel very sorry for her, and want to give her advisers a good kicking.

Now let us fast-forward to 7 December 1995. The most telling context to that date is that less than two weeks later Buckingham Palace announced that The Queen had urged Charles and Diana to divorce. This time she is at Centrepoint, speaking about homelessness.

What a difference! From the bald opening onwards this is much more impressive.

Yes, it is still scripted, but I reckon she wrote this one personally because she is far more comfortable with the phrasing – so much so that she looks at it only fleetingly. It surges with passionate energy. She surges with passionate energy. Gone is the simpering bird in a gilded cage, we now welcome a new confidence. This is a woman not to be messed with. Look at the strength that emanates even from her eyes: she means what she is saying.

There’s a strong 10-element anaphora (“Young people …”) that begins at 1:00 and periodically permeates the rest of a good and telling speech.

The principle agent working for her here is her inner confidence, twinned with passion. I call it inner confidence, because it is more rational than mere bravado. Unless underpinned with some technical know-how confidence and passion can too easily be foolhardiness. I see areas where she needed a little more technical know-how, but let’s not quibble. This was very good.

Malala Yousafzai – remarkable!

Four days ago on 12 July – her 16th birthday – Malala Yousafzai, wearing a shawl that had belonged to Benazir Bhutto, delivered a speech to the United Nations. On 9 October 2012, along with two classmates, she was shot in the head and neck by Taliban gunmen, wanting to suppress the education of girls. I am reluctant to use terms like ‘icon’, still less ‘poster-girl’, but undeniably she quickly became a symbol for a struggle for freedom against forces of terrorism. Western governments and media seized her story; she was flown to Birmingham, UK, and treated in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

The shooting incident did not parachute her from nowhere onto the world’s stage. Nor was the speech to the UN her first. She had blogged anonymously and spoken publicly for some years about the drive for education for Moslem girls. She had chaired public meetings, made videos. She featured in a 2009 TV documentary about The Taliban’s attempts to close down her school; and this public profile undoubtedly had something to do with her school van having been sprayed with bullets that day last October.

Immediately I have to marvel at the extraordinary assurance she shows in the opening minute. She has learnt how to convey confidence by opening with a very measured pace. She perfectly reflects the decorum of the setting. The only incongruity, if I might nit-pick, is in the words, “I don’t know where to begin my speech”. Oh yes she does!

At that second the camera cuts to three people sitting in reserved seats. In the middle is Ziauddin, her father; so I assume the others to be her brother and mother. I think we are observing whence this speech came. I don’t mean they wrote it for her or coached its delivery, though they may have made contributions; but we see the family unit that provided the nature, nurture and support that has put an astonishing degree of fire in this young belly, steel in her backbone and eloquence in her tongue. We can no more than guess at the constant peril in which they live at home in Pakistan.

Did I say steel in her backbone? Listen to the defiant auxesis with which she declaims from 4:35 that the bullets ignited thousands of voices in support of her campaign. Did I suggest that she knew exactly what she was doing in preparing this speech? Listen to the epistrophe that begins at 5:31, or the anaphora at 7:31

Does she know how to work a crowd? Listen to, and marvel at, the list of her heroes beginning at 6:30. That is a lesson in inclusivity. The list concludes with her parents and could be desperately saccharine, even emetic, in less skilful hands.

Her enunciation is excellent. Never does she sound over fastidious, yet every word gets across. At 9:03 the word “asked” has both the ‘k’ and the ‘d’ discreetly and effortlessly yet clearly uttered. She is really very good indeed.

If bullets do not silence her she has a distinguished future, but what will be the nature of that distinction? If I were to pray for her it would be for the wisdom of Solomon. As with the fictitious Dictator’s Speech by Charlie Chaplin that I critiqued a few weeks ago she, her talent and her message could be used to support many creeds and philosophies, not all of them benign though plausible and backed by immense political strength.

She will need that fire; she will need that steel; she will need that eloquence; she will need that wisdom.

Danny Dorling – a fish out of water

In October 2012 The Cambridge Union Society held a debate with the motion This House Believes Class Runs BritainIn passing, I’d like to say that the CUS has a better organised online presence than the Oxford Union.  With the former there is a web page dedicated to the debate details; with the latter you have to try to hunt them down. Danny Dorling opened the case for the motion, and I’d like to thank fellow bloggist, Geoff Chambers, for drawing my attention to it.

My instant reaction was, why? The excellent CUS web page, mentioned above, tells me that also speaking for the motion is Ken Livingstone. What possessed them to put Dorling on first? I’m sure he’s a charming man, but he’s a fish out of water. The answer is that they were holding Livingstone back to field questions and summarise at the end. In the above video Dorling’s speech runs from 3:00 to 13:25.

Did I say a fish out of water? He says it too, though not quite in those words. But even before he admits being new to this environment his body language is screaming it. Look how his hands are all around his mouth in his first seconds of speaking. This is a classic terror symptom. Throughout the speech his hands periodically worry themselves behind his ears, which is likewise a stress symptom that we met before towards the end of this posting. (You can see another type of stress here, where a well-known sportsman is repeatedly worrying behind his ear and showing us that he’d rather be in the shower than doing this dumb interview.)

Take the environment out of the frame and Dorling is actually expressing himself quite well: there’s a neat anaphora that starts at 3:17 – “you worry about…”.

More than once in articles on this blog I have protested that your accent is part of you so you should honour it. I’m therefore disappointed by his assertion at 5:20 that if you live for any time in Newcastle without adopting the Geordie accent you are a ‘complete idiot’ and ‘very arrogant’. I’m sorry but I classify going native as a mark of insecurity.

At 5:30 he says that he’s not going to shower us with statistics, because they could be challenged by subsequent speakers. That looks like insecurity again (I’m trying to be charitable). The class issue, he says, is more of a gut feeling. Ah yes! Assertions backed up by essentially nothing are suitably unverifiable: don’t we love arguments like that – particularly from professors?

At 7:07 he tells us that he’s never spoken in a debate before (I told you so!). All right, there’s a first time for everything. I don’t suppose he’s ever dived off a 10-metre board either, but it might occur to him to learn something before trying.

What is it about public speaking that, although it is widely recognised as one of the most stressful things you can do, it doesn’t dawn on most people to seek help? How many seriously bright, knowledgeable and insightful people have been featured in this blog and been seen to fail dramatically to do themselves justice? The right guidance can turn a terrifying minefield into a pussy-cat playground.

When will they ever learn?

Douglas Carswell spoke for this week – 16 months ago.

This is my one chance to post on this blog this week: I shall be working away for the rest of it. I read that it has been announced that the British Prime Minister’s postponed speech on the UK’s relationship with the EU is now scheduled to take place in London this Wednesday morning. Therefore this offering by Douglas Carswell seems pertinent. He was speaking at a meeting of the Tax Payers’ Alliance at the Conservative Party Conference in September 2011.

First sentence: “Ladies and Gentlemen, we need an in/out referendum”. Not a lot of ambiguity is cluttering up the landscape at this point. He has something to say, and seems to have given the speech a Face. The opening statement is immediately followed by statistics concerning the support it has; and that in turn is hotly pursued by perhaps his most telling theme at this juncture. He prepares us for a lengthy paralipsis.

He makes the point that this should not be merely a drive for us to leave the EU, that the expected result of a referendum should not have any bearing on whether it takes place, but that a referendum should be held simply because it is the right thing to do. And then comes that paralipsis. For the above reason we must “put to one side”… and there follows a long list of what we must “put to one side” and not here discuss.  Each item in the list has just a sentence or two attached to it, with just enough there to make his sympathetic audience bridle each time a little more at the way the EU interferes wrongly with our lives. That process lasts more than a minute. If you want an illustration of paralipsis as a rhetorical device, here it is. It also represents a pleasing example of anaphora, because for each element in that list he begins with, “we must put to one side…”

There follows an extended argument concerning why it is the right thing to do – Conservatives, Labour and Libdem leaderships have all in the past promised it, all have reneged, so the question can hardly be settled by a general election. All those parties contain plenty of supporters for a referendum. The democratic deficit must be cut. The AV referendum demonstrated how easily it could be done.  Etc. He also points out what a mess the Westminster elite have made of it so far.

Any regular reader of this blog is likely to be wearily familiar with my hate for paper-driven speaking. For the first three and a half minutes Carswell’s notes on the table persist in occasionally drawing his eyes, and every time his rhythm suffers. Thereafter he warms to his theme and is transformed. The argument just pours out of him that bureaucrats, practitioners of top-down design, can hardly be trusted to make a balanced judgement on bowing to the will of the people. He’s magnificent then, so why does he not so arrange his material that all the speech has the fluency of the last seven and a half minutes? It is not difficult to do.

[I’m going to beat a personal drum here on the theme of this speech. I want an in/out referendum for a reason that none of these people ever seem to raise – Carswell didn’t, though he did urge his audience to “trust the people”. I want it not so much for the referendum but the attendant campaign. I am sick of being metaphorically patted on the hand and told by some monumentally unimpressive SW1-type not to worry my pretty little head about it. I want both sides’ arguments right out there: the cost/benefit analyses, the proper on-air debates between equal and opposite heavyweights, the blithe assertions properly challenged. I couldn’t give a tuppenny toss that some dreary plutocrat (still less a dozy bureaucrat) wants us to stay in, unless we have his/her reasons properly argued. And the more the referendum is deferred the more I infer that the above is exactly what the eu-phile camp wants to avoid.]

Carswell closes by obliquely pointing out that the UK is not the only country suffering a democratic deficit from the EU, and that an initiative by Britain might generate a domino effect so that half a billion Europeans, currently disenfranchised, might finally have a say.

Who’s up for a game of bullshit bingo on Wednesday?  Is anyone making a book on the weasel-word-count? Will I, next weekend, be writing a critique on a brilliant bit of statesmanship or another spineless cop-out?  Will the speech, indeed, be delayed once more? Let us see.