Robert Woodson: inspirational

In April 2021 Hillsdale College, in its Christ Chapel Drummond Lecture Series, hosted a talk by Robert L. Woodson.

I am resolving to stop apologising for covering so many speeches from Hillsdale College. The habit began when they seemed, during the pandemic nonsense, about the only online source of live speeches to live audiences. The habit was somewhat reinforced when I found that, regardless of the standard of delivery or content preparation (which I could and did discuss), the messages these people were conveying were so wise. Even on rare occasions that I disagreed with them I found their arguments respectable – and that is refreshing these days.

U-oh! Larry Arnn is doing the introduction. We know him in particular from his speech that we covered only a couple of weeks ago. Timothy Caspar, politics lecturer, seems usually to do the honours for these Hillsdale talks, but when the college President gets up we know from experience that he regards this speaker as extra-special and that he will say so in terms that will be seriously moving for the speaker himself.

Yep! I was right.

This is really very good. Woodson shoots everything from the hip like a proper speaker, and it is very powerful. Those who don’t share my passion for the power of speaking without notes (which is actually quite easy when you know how) might gleefully point to small errors like when at 14:50, quoting a date, he says “2025” when he clearly means “1925”. The mistake is obvious and all the manifest sincerity pouring out of Woodson completely swamps the tiny slip.

Woodson’s philosophy, driving his work and this speech, is that when it comes to the deprived a hand-up is infinitely better than a hand-out, love is stronger than hate, and allowing your mentality to be ruled by resentment or self-pity robs you of your ability to lift yourself by your own bootstraps.

It is wonderful stuff, wonderfully conveyed, and full of astonishing inspirational stories that underpin his philosophy. He begins at 3:45, speaks through to the end of the video at 43:00 and it is worth every second.

David Webb: sober maturity.

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.

I like this speech.