Rory Stewart displays excellence

Rory Stewart is a very, very good speaker

I am there quoting myself in a posting from 1 November, 2013. Though I had to go back to check the date and details I have never forgotten the impact on me that speech had. Thus when I spotted this lecture at Yale, delivered in April 2018, I was eager to watch it if only to indulge myself.

I did more than check details on that previous post, I re-read it and will take back not a word. Rory Stewart is outstanding. We see him here displaying all the qualities of all the best speakers.

During preliminary chats with my trainees, I regularly hear the protestation that they’re “ok” when lucky enough to be dealing with subject matter they know really well, but when ordered to deliver a presentation on something of which they have scant knowledge they are less good. Well of course! In an ideal world no one would be asked to speak on something they didn’t really know (though there are tricks); but this isn’t an ideal world and adverse circumstances arise.

Stewart here is being rather better than “ok”.

We see him showing total command of his subject, quoting from memory myriad facts, figures and a wide range of random data, and we are reminded that he makes his own luck. Consider the extraordinary lengths to which he goes in order to get right under the skin of the communities and cultures with which he deals. In 2002 he took leave from his job with the British foreign service to walk across Asia, entitling him thereafter to speak for those at the grass roots as one who had lived there.

There is another less obvious quality to his knowledge of his subject. Deep knowledge brings with it a heightened awareness of that which you don’t know. Stewart’s willingness in this speech to admit to questions to which he has no answers speaks eloquently for his inner confidence. Insecurity would not allow that admission.

That quality enriches the questions he receives. Though the absence of an audience mic prevents us from properly hearing the questions, the way he addresses them seems to acknowledge their value; and his answers to these relatively random issues are as full of detailed data from memory as the main body of the speech.

Had I been in the audience I would have highlighted the way the developed world’s devotion to the preposterous climate change fallacy denies impoverished African countries access to cheap energy from coal. I would have challenged his repeatedly trotting out ‘legitimate state monopoly on the use of violence’ as a commonplace desirability, because defining ‘legitimate’ presents immediate knottiness, even if you are prepared to overlook the 2nd amendment in the US Bill Of Rights, and so on. His attitude throughout suggests he is open to debating all views, and the consequent conversation will be the richer for it.

Yes he really is a very good speaker, equipped with an outstanding memory, and amazingly adept at addressing matters that are miles outside his apparent expertise. Here is a speech that I offer as a bonus and which moved Madam Deputy Speaker to declare it one of the best speeches she had ever heard in the House of Commons.