Adam Andrzejewski needs to be heard

In March 2020 Hillsdale College held a National Leadership Seminar in Naples, Florida. One of the speakers was Adam Andrzejewski delivering a talk entitled “The Depth of the Swamp“. It’s an appropriate title for a speech from someone who has published a book called Operation Drain the Swamp.

Pretty well everywhere you look for information about this man, you find a pronunciation guide to his name. They vary, but “And-G-F-ski” seems to be one of the leading candidates. It reminds me of decades ago when I was preparing a radio interview with the conductor, Gennady Rozhdestvensky and telephoned a friend for pronunciation guidance. He said, “Roger-Svensky, but everyone calls him Noddy”. We Western Europeans are useless when it comes to pronouncing names originating east of Vienna.

Once again the introduction is by politics lecturer, Timothy Caspar, and Andrzejewski arrives at the lectern at 1:50.

His speech is truly, and deliberately, shocking. He firehoses at the audience a stream of data that amounts to horrendous financial corruption in several layers of the US government, a gold-plated gravy-train. If I were an American I’d go straight out to buy his book to learn more, but …

There is something that bothers me about Andrzejewski’s delivery, particularly during the early part of the speech, and it’s quite difficult to explain. He delivers hard and fast, but then he gives the impression of being one who drives himself hard and fast. He is obviously highly intelligent, and the facts, figures and sundry data pour out of him in a torrent. So far – you may think – so good.

Except the audience isn’t quite responding in the way it is evidently intended to. There are punchlines in abundance, some humorous most not but all of them worthy of serious note, yet his pause for reaction is each time a disappointment. My rule for trainees is never to pause on a punchline until and unless the audience forces a pause on you. He would do well to observe that rule.

Also there are ‘seizure points’, moments of brief silence when there shouldn’t be. These are not pauses for dramatic effect: they are random, sometimes mid-sentence. If he were reading a script (which he isn’t) they would be times when he lost his place. That is how they sound.

Briefly I wondered whether he had learnt this entire speech as a script, and those seizure points were momentary lapses of memory, but various signs caused me to abandon that theory.

I now have another theory, on which I could easily be way off the mark, but I’ll float it anyway.

Having written his book, and I’m prepared to bet that it is even punchier than this speech, he decided to go out and speak the same messages. The way to do that, he reasoned, was simply to broadcast his written material orally. To adjust for the different medium he would inject the speaking with bags of personality and vocal modulation. He would strive to avoid things that most public speaking coaches (though not this one) criticise, like “um” and “er” – and thereby all that would surely work.

It’s a logical assumption, and I don’t blame him if he made it, but a relationship with an audience is more nuanced and takes subtler building.

I suspect that he gets plenty of invitations to speak because his message is dynamite, so he could find his public voice and its optimum style by trial and error. That can be a painful apprenticeship, but he doesn’t strike me as a quitter. By the end of this speech his audience relationship had improved markedly, but it still wasn’t ideal.

At any rate I wish him well because people need to hear him.