Naturally, I’m a big fan of writing, but some of my favorite writing is not designed to be read in a quiet well-lit room. It is meant to be spoken aloud. I like listening to speeches. They’re not always the work of one person. Some are, but most require the combined efforts of many speech writers, and this collaboration only helps to make them better.
When we remember famous people, we often link them to their most famous speeches. Think of Martin Luther King, Jr. and you will recall his “I have a dream” speech. Think of John Kennedy and you may recall the words from his inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” Think of Jesus, and the word of the Sermon on the Mount might spring into your memory. “Do unto others, as you will have them do unto you.” That was a classic speech.
Abraham Lincoln is linked to a classic speech of his own, his “Four score and seven years ago” Gettysburg Address. That’s probably one of the rare speeches that many people have memorized in its entirety.
Some memorable moments from famous speeches turned into moments that the speakers would probably wish we would forget. George H.W. Bush was haunted by his “Read my lips. No new taxes” speech. Bill Clinton gave many great speeches, but the line he spoke that most of us remember is “I did not have sex with that woman.” Richard Nixon is linked to the ironic phrase from his “Checkers” speech, “I am not a crook.”
Some great speeches were delivered by actors, and I don’t just mean the speeches of Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger. I’m talking about actors in movies. Michael Douglas in The American President, letting Sen. Bob Rumson know that “this is a time for serious people and your 15 minutes are up.” Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday encouraging his team to “fight for every inch,” and the future “Senator” Blutarsky mobilizing his frat brothers with his stirring oratory, “Nothing is over until we decide it is. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”
I like speeches and this month I am getting plenty. We have both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions providing dozens of them. I don’t always agree with the speakers, but I enjoy watching them try to build their cases. Normally, the speeches at a convention take 3-4 times longer than they should. Every sentence is punctuated with phony “spontaneous” applause and cheering. This year is different. The virtual conventions are providing noise-free speeches. Nobody is hooting, hollering, waving a sign, or releasing red, white, and blue balloons during the speeches. There are no interruptions for incessant cheering. All we get is the message. We can agree or disagree, but, this year, we are getting the words without all the noise, the thin silver lining in the big dark Covid cloud.
You can now go to YouTube and listen to all the convention speeches in just minutes instead of days. You can find the message that resonates with you, and, like Simon and Garfunkle, visions can be planted in your brain, within the sounds of silence. Then all you have to do is vote, and that is how you can make your own speech and let your voice be heard.
Peace & Love, and all of the above,