Saturday, August 29, 2009

In Tribute To A Life - Ted Kennedy

In tribute to the life of a man who served this country in the Senate for nearly half a century, it’s appropriate we examine this, his most famous speech.

Speech By: Senator Edward M. Kennedy - written by Bob Shrum
Title: Concession Speech
Date: August 12, 1980
Location: Madison Square Garden, New York
Occasion: Democratic National Convention
Length (words): 3337
Video Posted:
YouTube - Part 1
YouTube - Part 2
YouTube - Part 3
YouTube - Part 4
Text Posted: American Rhetoric

I was at this convention - as a political reporter for some Long Island radio stations. Don’t remember if I was on the floor, or in the Rail Road lounge - open to credentialed members of the press only - at the time, but the speech was a jolt of electricity to the entire surroundings.

It should be considered that the speech was delivered in an atmosphere of bitter rancor and acrimony, between the defeated Kennedy forces, and the victorious Carter supporters. This is, after all, the concession speech of a man who has challenged the re-election of an incumbent President of his own party.

For all of that, it is a justifiably memorable speech, and a great example of the successful collaboration between a speaker, and the speech writer, in this case, Bob Shrum.

He opens with a touch of humility, and humor: “Well, things worked out a little different from the way I thought, but let me tell you, I still love New York.

It’s an effective way to establish audience identification, because we can all identify with being put in an uncomfortable situation - albeit few of us have experienced it on a national stage. He refers to himself - but not with a sense of bombast characteristic of too many political speeches. Instead this is the chagrined admission of a personal failure.

He then states his purpose - the premise of his speech: “My fellow Democrats and my fellow Americans, I have come here tonight not to argue as a candidate but to affirm a cause.

He is chagrined, but not contrite, He is shamelessly unapologetic for what he has done.

The American economy, then suffering from serious stagflation, is his first target. He calls it a moral issued, and he sets his sights on that target using a time-honored rhetorical device - the repeated phrase.

Let us pledge,” is how he begins three successive paragraphs. This device has the same purpose to a listening audience that a series of bulletin points do on a piece of paper. It alerts the audience, or the reader, know that everything that follows it is important information.

Next, he sets his sights on the Republican party and its newly named standard-bearer, former California Governor Ronald Reagan. They do not receive gentle treatment. This is, after all, a partisan speech to a partisan crowd.

Again, the repeated phrase technique is used to make each point. In this case, the phrase is: “The same Republicans who are talking about.” Four successive paragraphs start with this phrase, then, as it is time to transition the speech to a direct attack on Reagan he alters the phrase slightly: “And the same Republicans who are invoking Franklin Roosevelt have nominated a man who ....

Now the task shifts to why his party is a better alternative - “So this year let us offer new hope, new hope to an America uncertain about the present, but unsurpassed in its potential for the future.Again, the repeated phrase device is employed: To all those who ...

As he comes close to his conclusion, Senator Kennedy offers this very interesting paragraph: “There were some -- There were some who said we should be silent about our differences on issues during this convention, but the heritage of the Democratic Party has been a history of democracy. We fight hard because we care deeply about our principles and purposes. We did not flee this struggle. We welcome the contrast with the empty and expedient spectacle last month in Detroit where no nomination was contested, no question was debated, and no one dared to raise any doubt or dissent.
He seems to be offering himself absolution - in justifying his challenge of a sitting President, by making that challenge appear a common virtue of his party, rather than a violation of commonly understood political principles.

Then he is on to his closing, albeit one that is more than twice as long as the entire Gettysburg address!

He refers to the campaign just past: “Among you, my golden friends across this land, I have listened and learned.” And uses that to introduce a final repeated phrase - “I have listened to.” Then, after four repetitions, he shifts to a slight variant of the phrase, making it now, “I have seen.” This can almost be thought of in musical terms, the way a symphony in its closing passages might transition from a minor key to the key of its relative major.

Then, on to the final crescendo:
For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.

In a packed arena, it truly was that.

From The Bully Pulpit - Tom

Thanks very much, Barbara Mikulski, for your very eloquent, your eloquent introduction. Distinguished legislator, great spokeswoman for economic democracy and social justice in this country, I thank you for your eloquent introduction.

Well, things worked out a little different from the way I thought, but let me tell you, I still love New York.

My fellow Democrats and my fellow Americans, I have come here tonight not to argue as a candidate but to affirm a cause.

I'm asking you -- I am asking you to renew the commitment of the Democratic Party to economic justice.

I am asking you to renew our commitment to a fair and lasting prosperity that can put America back to work.

This is the cause that brought me into the campaign and that sustained me for nine months across a 100,000 miles in 40 different states. We had our losses, but the pain of our defeats is far, far less than the pain of the people that I have met.

We have learned that it is important to take issues seriously, but never to take ourselves too seriously.

The serious issue before us tonight is the cause for which the Democratic Party has stood in its finest hours, the cause that keeps our Party young and makes it, in the second century of its age, the largest political Party in this republic and the longest lasting political Party on this planet.

Our cause has been, since the days of Thomas Jefferson, the cause of the common man and the common woman.

Our commitment has been, since the days of Andrew Jackson, to all those he called "the humble members of society -- the farmers, mechanics, and laborers." On this foundation we have defined our values, refined our policies, and refreshed our faith.

Now I take the unusual step of carrying the cause and the commitment of my campaign personally to our national convention. I speak out of a deep sense of urgency about the anguish and anxiety I have seen across America.

I speak out of a deep belief in the ideals of the Democratic Party, and in the potential of that Party and of a President to make a difference. And I speak out of a deep trust in our capacity to proceed with boldness and a common vision that will feel and heal the suffering of our time and the divisions of our Party.

The economic plank of this platform on its face concerns only material things, but it is also a moral issue that I raise tonight. It has taken many forms over many years. In this campaign and in this country that we seek to lead, the challenge in 1980 is to give our voice and our vote for these fundamental democratic principles.

Let us pledge that we will never misuse unemployment, high interest rates, and human misery as false weapons against inflation.

Let us pledge that employment will be the first priority of our economic policy.

Let us pledge that there will be security for all those who are now at work, and let us pledge that there will be jobs for all who are out of work; and we will not compromise on the issues of jobs.

These are not simplistic pledges. Simply put, they are the heart of our tradition, and they have been the soul of our Party across the generations. It is the glory and the greatness of our tradition to speak for those who have no voice, to remember those who are forgotten, to respond to the frustrations and fulfill the aspirations of all Americans seeking a better life in a better land.

We dare not forsake that tradition.

We cannot let the great purposes of the Democratic Party become the bygone passages of history.

We must not permit the Republicans to seize and run on the slogans of prosperity. We heard the orators at their convention all trying to talk like Democrats. They proved that even Republican nominees can quote Franklin Roosevelt to their own purpose.

The Grand Old Party thinks it has found a great new trick, but 40 years ago an earlier generation of Republicans attempted the same trick. And Franklin Roosevelt himself replied, "Most Republican leaders have bitterly fought and blocked the forward surge of average men and women in their pursuit of happiness. Let us not be deluded that overnight those leaders have suddenly become the friends of average men and women."

"You know," he continued, "very few of us are that gullible." And four years later when the Republicans tried that trick again, Franklin Roosevelt asked, "Can the Old Guard pass itself off as the New Deal? I think not. We have all seen many marvelous stunts in the circus, but no performing elephant could turn a handspring without falling flat on its back."

The 1980 Republican convention was awash with crocodile tears for our economic distress, but it is by their long record and not their recent words that you shall know them.

The same Republicans who are talking about the crisis of unemployment have nominated a man who once said, and I quote, "Unemployment insurance is a prepaid vacation plan for freeloaders." And that nominee is no friend of labor.

The same Republicans who are talking about the problems of the inner cities have nominated a man who said, and I quote, "I have included in my morning and evening prayers every day the prayer that the Federal Government not bail out New York." And that nominee is no friend of this city and our great urban centers across this nation.

The same Republicans who are talking about security for the elderly have nominated a man who said just four years ago that "Participation in social security should be made voluntary." And that nominee is no friend of the senior citizens of this nation.

The same Republicans who are talking about preserving the environment have nominated a man who last year made the preposterous statement, and I quote, "Eighty percent of our air pollution comes from plants and trees." And that nominee is no friend of the environment.

And the same Republicans who are invoking Franklin Roosevelt have nominated a man who said in 1976, and these are his exact words, "Fascism was really the basis of the New Deal." And that nominee whose name is Ronald Reagan has no right to quote Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The great adventures which our opponents offer is a voyage into the past. Progress is our heritage, not theirs. What is right for us as Democrats is also the right way for Democrats to win.

The commitment I seek is not to outworn views but to old values that will never wear out. Programs may sometimes become obsolete, but the ideal of fairness always endures. Circumstances may change, but the work of compassion must continue. It is surely correct that we cannot solve problems by throwing money at them, but it is also correct that we dare not throw out our national problems onto a scrap heap of inattention and indifference. The poor may be out of political fashion, but they are not without human needs. The middle class may be angry, but they have not lost the dream that all Americans can advance together.

The demand of our people in 1980 is not for smaller government or bigger government but for better government. Some say that government is always bad and that spending for basic social programs is the root of our economic evils. But we reply: The present inflation and recession cost our economy 200 billion dollars a year. We reply: Inflation and unemployment are the biggest spenders of all.

The task of leadership in 1980 is not to parade scapegoats or to seek refuge in reaction, but to match our power to the possibilities of progress. While others talked of free enterprise, it was the Democratic Party that acted and we ended excessive regulation in the airline and trucking industry, and we restored competition to the marketplace. And I take some satisfaction that this deregulation legislation that I sponsored and passed in the Congress of the United States.

As Democrats we recognize that each generation of Americans has a rendezvous with a different reality. The answers of one generation become the questions of the next generation. But there is a guiding star in the American firmament. It is as old as the revolutionary belief that all people are created equal, and as clear as the contemporary condition of Liberty City and the South Bronx. Again and again Democratic leaders have followed that star and they have given new meaning to the old values of liberty and justice for all.

We are the Party -- We are the Party of the New Freedom, the New Deal, and the New Frontier. We have always been the Party of hope. So this year let us offer new hope, new hope to an America uncertain about the present, but unsurpassed in its potential for the future.

To all those who are idle in the cities and industries of America let us provide new hope for the dignity of useful work. Democrats have always believed that a basic civil right of all Americans is that their right to earn their own way. The Party of the people must always be the Party of full employment.

To all those who doubt the future of our economy, let us provide new hope for the reindustrialization of America. And let our vision reach beyond the next election or the next year to a new generation of prosperity. If we could rebuild Germany and Japan after World War II, then surely we can reindustrialize our own nation and revive our inner cities in the 1980's.

To all those who work hard for a living wage let us provide new hope that their price of their employment shall not be an unsafe workplace and a death at an earlier age.

To all those who inhabit our land from California to the New York Island, from the Redwood Forest to the Gulf stream waters, let us provide new hope that prosperity shall not be purchased by poisoning the air, the rivers, and the natural resources that are the greatest gift of this continent. We must insist that our children and our grandchildren shall inherit a land which they can truly call America the beautiful.

To all those who see the worth of their work and their savings taken by inflation, let us offer new hope for a stable economy. We must meet the pressures of the present by invoking the full power of government to master increasing prices. In candor, we must say that the Federal budget can be balanced only by policies that bring us to a balanced prosperity of full employment and price restraint.

And to all those overburdened by an unfair tax structure, let us provide new hope for real tax reform. Instead of shutting down classrooms, let us shut off tax shelters. Instead of cutting out school lunches, let us cut off tax subsidies for expensive business lunches that are nothing more than food stamps for the rich.

The tax cut of our Republican opponents takes the name of tax reform in vain. It is a wonderfully Republican idea that would redistribute income in the wrong direction. It's good news for any of you with incomes over 200,000 dollars a year. For the few of you, it offers a pot of gold worth 14,000 dollars. But the Republican tax cut is bad news for the middle income families. For the many of you, they plan a pittance of 200 dollars a year, and that is not what the Democratic Party means when we say tax reform.

The vast majority of Americans cannot afford this panacea from a Republican nominee who has denounced the progressive income tax as the invention of Karl Marx. I am afraid he has confused Karl Marx with Theodore Roosevelt -- that obscure Republican president who sought and fought for a tax system based on ability to pay. Theodore Roosevelt was not Karl Marx, and the Republican tax scheme is not tax reform.

Finally, we cannot have a fair prosperity in isolation from a fair society. So I will continue to stand for a national health insurance. We must -- We must not surrender -- We must not surrender to the relentless medical inflation that can bankrupt almost anyone and that may soon break the budgets of government at every level. Let us insist on real controls over what doctors and hospitals can charge, and let us resolve that the state of a family's health shall never depend on the size of a family's wealth.

The President, the Vice President, the members of Congress have a medical plan that meets their needs in full, and whenever senators and representatives catch a little cold, the Capitol physician will see them immediately, treat them promptly, fill a prescription on the spot. We do not get a bill even if we ask for it, and when do you think was the last time a member of Congress asked for a bill from the Federal Government? And I say again, as I have before, if health insurance is good enough for the President, the Vice President, the Congress of the United States, then it's good enough for you and every family in America.

There were some -- There were some who said we should be silent about our differences on issues during this convention, but the heritage of the Democratic Party has been a history of democracy. We fight hard because we care deeply about our principles and purposes. We did not flee this struggle. We welcome the contrast with the empty and expedient spectacle last month in Detroit where no nomination was contested, no question was debated, and no one dared to raise any doubt or dissent.

Democrats can be proud that we chose a different course and a different platform.

We can be proud that our Party stands for investment in safe energy, instead of a nuclear future that may threaten the future itself. We must not permit the neighborhoods of America to be permanently shadowed by the fear of another Three Mile Island.

We can be proud that our Party stands for a fair housing law to unlock the doors of discrimination once and for all. The American house will be divided against itself so long as there is prejudice against any American buying or renting a home.

And we can be proud that our Party stands plainly and publicly and persistently for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Women hold their rightful place at our convention, and women must have their rightful place in the Constitution of the United States. On this issue we will not yield; we will not equivocate; we will not rationalize, explain, or excuse. We will stand for E.R.A. and for the recognition at long last that our nation was made up of founding mothers as well as founding fathers.

A fair prosperity and a just society are within our vision and our grasp, and we do not have every answer. There are questions not yet asked, waiting for us in the recesses of the future. But of this much we can be certain because it is the lesson of all of our history: Together a President and the people can make a difference. I have found that faith still alive wherever I have traveled across this land. So let us reject the counsel of retreat and the call to reaction. Let us go forward in the knowledge that history only helps those who help themselves.

There will be setbacks and sacrifices in the years ahead; but I am convinced that we as a people are ready to give something back to our country in return for all it has given to us.

Let this -- Let this be our commitment: Whatever sacrifices must be made will be shared and shared fairly. And let this be our confidence: At the end of our journey and always before us shines that ideal of liberty and justice for all.

In closing, let me say a few words to all those that I have met and to all those who have supported me at this convention and across the country. There were hard hours on our journey, and often we sailed against the wind. But always we kept our rudder true, and there were so many of you who stayed the course and shared our hope. You gave your help; but even more, you gave your hearts.

And because of you, this has been a happy campaign. You welcomed Joan, me, and our family into your homes and neighborhoods, your churches, your campuses, your union halls. And when I think back of all the miles and all the months and all the memories, I think of you. And I recall the poet's words, and I say: "What golden friends I had."

Among you, my golden friends across this land, I have listened and learned.

I have listened to Kenny Dubois, a glassblower in Charleston, West Virginia, who has ten children to support but has lost his job after 35 years, just three years short of qualifying for his pension.

I have listened to the Trachta family who farm in Iowa and who wonder whether they can pass the good life and the good earth on to their children.

I have listened to the grandmother in East Oakland who no longer has a phone to call her grandchildren because she gave it up to pay the rent on her small apartment.

I have listened to young workers out of work, to students without the tuition for college, and to families without the chance to own a home.

I have seen the closed factories and the stalled assembly lines of Anderson, Indiana and South Gate, California, and I have seen too many, far too many idle men and women desperate to work.

I have seen too many, far too many working families desperate to protect the value of their wages from the ravages of inflation.

Yet I have also sensed a yearning for a new hope among the people in every state where I have been.

And I have felt it in their handshakes, I saw it in their faces, and I shall never forget the mothers who carried children to our rallies.

I shall always remember the elderly who have lived in an America of high purpose and who believe that it can all happen again.

Tonight, in their name, I have come here to speak for them. And for their sake, I ask you to stand with them. On their behalf I ask you to restate and reaffirm the timeless truth of our Party.

I congratulate President Carter on his victory here.

I am -- I am confident that the Democratic Party will reunite on the basis of Democratic principles, and that together we will march towards a Democratic victory in 1980.

And someday, long after this convention, long after the signs come down and the crowds stop cheering, and the bands stop playing, may it be said of our campaign that we kept the faith.

May it be said of our Party in 1980 that we found our faith again.

And may it be said of us, both in dark passages and in bright days, in the words of Tennyson that my brothers quoted and loved, and that have special meaning for me now:

"I am a part of all that I have met
To [Tho] much is taken, much abides
That which we are, we are --
One equal temper of heroic hearts
Strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end.

For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.

From The Bully Pulpit - Tom

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Speaking to the World

Speech By: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Title: Foreign Policy Address at the Council on Foreign Relations
July 15, 2009
Council on Foreign Relations - Washington, DC Building
Length (words):
Video Posted:
Department of State
Text Posted:
Department of State


When the Secretary of State speaks, the world listens. At least we hope it happens that way! It is the most important cabinet post, and represents this nation before the world.

It can’t go without mention that Hillary Clinton has star power few in her office have ever enjoyed - Thomas Jefferson, Henry Kissinger, and Colin Powell perhaps, but most of her predecessors are famous for having been Secretary of State, not famous in their own right.

This speech before the Council on Foreign Relations was Secretary of State Clinton’s first speech after having surgery to repair a broken elbow.

The Council is “an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher dedicated to being a resource for its members, government officials, business executives, journalists, educators and students, civic and religious leaders, and other interested citizens in order to help them better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other countries.”

That means she was speaking in front of an audience which had a natural interest in what she had to say. It was also a speech she gave just before embarking on an overseas tour.

For all of those natural advantages, this seems a disappointingly bland speech - full of generalizations and distressingly short on specifics. At just over 5400 words, it’s certainly long enough to offer details.

The opening paragraph seems strangely disjointed, and a forced attempt at familiarity. This is an audience full of people with the same interest in foreign policy, many of whom she probably knows on a first name basis. These sentences seem particularly forced: “I have been often to, I guess, the mother ship in New York City, but it’s good to have an outpost of the Council right here down the street from the State Department. We get a lot of advice from the Council, so this will mean I won’t have as far to go to be told what we should be doing and how we should think about the future.” It almost seems to demean the advice the Council does have to offer.

It may have been an attempt at good-natured humor. If so, it certainly fell flat. The video posted by the State Department shows no reaction whatsoever from the audience - a bad sign.

We have already examined how a shared audience identification enhances a speech. One of the ways to create this is for the speaker to talk on a mutual basis. One of the ways to destroy it is for the speaker to constantly refer to themself in the first person. This speech is a classic example of how to erode that shared identity.

Secretary Clinton refers to herself in the first person a total of 54 times (I - 37 times, I’m - 1, I’ve - 4, My - 6, Me - 6). In short, she uses a full one per cent of the total words of the speech, to refer in some way to herself. It stood out glaringly on my first read-through of the speech.

Even more disappointing is the substance of the speech, or lack thereof. For instance, this line - “We need a new mindset about how America will use its power to safeguard our nation, expand shared prosperity, and help more people in more places live up to their God-given potential.” America has done this for the last century, under administrations of all political views. You may (and probably will) quarrel with the methods some have used to achieve those goals, but the goals themselves have not varied.

There are other examples - “In approaching our foreign policy priorities, we have to deal with the urgent, the important, and the long-term all at once. But even as we are forced to multi-task – a very gender-related term (laughter) – we must have priorities,”. This is news? Every administration faces that task.

Liberty, democracy, justice and opportunity underlie our priorities.” Again, every administration for more than a century has claimed these priorities. Yet it is offered as a policy breakthrough.

And again - “Our approach to foreign policy must reflect the world as it is, not as it used to be.” Really? Who at the State Department has been arguing the opposite policy - dealing with Italy say, as if it were still under the thrall of the Caesars?

At one point she takes what appears to be a shot at the previous administration, which all new administrations do, and which may well be deserved: “Others say we are too often condescending and imperialistic, seeking only to expand our power at the expense of others. And yes, these perceptions have fed anti-Americanism, but they do not reflect who we are. No doubt we lost some ground in recent years, but the damage is temporary.

Then later on she says: “And here’s how we’ll do it: We’ll work through existing institutions and reform them.” I’m sorry, but isn’t going to another nation and saying we are going to reform you, “condescending and imperialistic,” as she put it earlier?

Later in the same paragraph she states: “We’ll go beyond states to create opportunities for non-state actors and individuals to contribute to solutions.” That may sound nice, but when you think about it, it’s also a description of what happened at the Bay of Pigs. Other governments tend to get resentful when you deal with the “non-state actors” within their borders.

In sum it is a speech populated by feel good - sound good phrases. But, in the end, it's not very convincing.

This speech set the stage for a whirlwind of foreign policy activity by Secretary Clinton. Given on the 15th of July, up until that point in the month only 15 of Clinton’s public statements, or one per day, were posted on the State Department Web site. For the rest of July there were 49, or just over three per day.

At the beginning of August, she embarked on a ten day tour of Africa, visiting the nations of Kenya, South Africa, Angola, Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Liberia and Cape Verde. A trip during which she gave 69 speeches, interviews or remarks in other form, the State Department felt worthy of posting on its Web site.

If nothing else, Secretary Clinton is keeping her speech writers busy, and is indeed, speaking to the world.

From The Bully Pulpit - Tom


Thank you very much, Richard, and I am delighted to be here in these new headquarters. I have been often to, I guess, the mother ship in New York City, but it’s good to have an outpost of the Council right here down the street from the State Department. We get a lot of advice from the Council, so this will mean I won’t have as far to go to be told what we should be doing and how we should think about the future.

Richard just gave what could be described as a mini-version of my remarks in talking about the issues that confront us. But I look out at this audience filled with not only many friends and colleagues, but people who have served in prior administrations. And so there is never a time when the in-box is not full.

Shortly before I started at the State Department, a former Secretary of State called me with this advice: Don’t try to do too much. And it seemed like a wise admonition, if only it were possible. But the international agenda today is unforgiving: two wars, conflict in the Middle East, ongoing threats of violent extremism and nuclear proliferation, global recession, climate change, hunger and disease, and a widening gap between the rich and the poor. All of these challenges affect America’s security and prosperity, and they all threaten global stability and progress.

But they are not reason to despair about the future. The same forces that compound our problems – economic interdependence, open borders, and the speedy movement of information, capital, goods, services and people – are also part of the solution. And with more states facing common challenges, we have the chance, and a profound responsibility, to exercise American leadership to solve problems in concert with others. That is the heart of America’s mission in the world today.

Now, some see the rise of other nations and our economic troubles here at home as signs that American power has waned. Others simply don’t trust us to lead; they view America as an unaccountable power, too quick to impose its will at the expense of their interests and our principles. But they are wrong.

The question is not whether our nation can or should lead, but how it will lead in the 21st century. Rigid ideologies and old formulas don’t apply. We need a new mindset about how America will use its power to safeguard our nation, expand shared prosperity, and help more people in more places live up to their God-given potential.

President Obama has led us to think outside the usual boundaries. He has launched a new era of engagement based on common interests, shared values, and mutual respect. Going forward, capitalizing on America’s unique strengths, we must advance those interests through partnership, and promote universal values through the power of our example and the empowerment of people. In this way, we can forge the global consensus required to defeat the threats, manage the dangers, and seize the opportunities of the 21st century. America will always be a world leader as long as we remain true to our ideals and embrace strategies that match the times. So we will exercise American leadership to build partnerships and solve problems that no nation can solve on its own, and we will pursue policies to mobilize more partners and deliver results.

First, though, let me say that while the ideas that shape our foreign policy are critically important, this, for me, is not simply an intellectual exercise. For over 16 years, I’ve had the chance, the privilege, really, to represent our country overseas as First Lady, as a senator, and now as Secretary of State. I’ve seen the bellies of starving children, girls sold into human trafficking, men dying of treatable diseases, women denied the right to own property or vote, and young people without schooling or jobs gripped by a sense of futility about their futures.

I’ve also seen how hope, hard work, and ingenuity can overcome the longest of odds. And for almost 36 years, I have worked as an advocate for children, women and families here at home. I’ve traveled across our country listening to everyday concerns of our citizens. I’ve met parents struggling to keep their jobs, pay their mortgages, cover their children’s college tuitions, and afford healthcare.

And all that I have done and seen has convinced me that our foreign policy must produce results for people – the laid-off auto worker in Detroit whose future will depend on global economic recovery; the farmer or small business owner in the developing world whose lack of opportunity can drive political instability and economic stagnation; the families whose loved ones are risking their lives for our country in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere; children in every land who deserve a brighter future. These are the people – hundreds of millions of them here in America and billions around the world – whose lives and experiences, hopes and dreams, must inform the decisions we take and the actions that follow. And these are the people who inspire me and my colleagues and the work that we try to do every day.

In approaching our foreign policy priorities, we have to deal with the urgent, the important, and the long-term all at once. But even as we are forced to multi-task – a very gender-related term (laughter) – we must have priorities, which President Obama has outlined in speeches from Prague to Cairo, from Moscow to Accra. We want to reverse the spread of nuclear weapons, prevent their use, and build a world free of their threat. We want to isolate and defeat terrorists and counter violent extremists while reaching out to Muslims around the world. We want to encourage and facilitate the efforts of all parties to pursue and achieve a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. We want to seek global economic recovery and growth by strengthening our own economy, advancing a robust development agenda, expanding trade that is free and fair, and boosting investment that creates decent jobs. We want to combat climate change, increase energy security, and lay the foundation for a prosperous clean-energy future. We want to support and encourage democratic governments that protect the rights and deliver results for their people. And we intend to stand up for human rights everywhere.

Liberty, democracy, justice and opportunity underlie our priorities. Some accuse us of using these ideals to justify actions that contradict their very meaning. Others say we are too often condescending and imperialistic, seeking only to expand our power at the expense of others. And yes, these perceptions have fed anti-Americanism, but they do not reflect who we are. No doubt we lost some ground in recent years, but the damage is temporary. It’s kind of like my elbow – it’s getting better every day. (Laughter.)

Whether in Latin America or Lebanon, Iran or Liberia, those who are inspired by democracy, who understand that democracy is about more than just elections – that it must also protect minority rights and press freedom, develop strong, competent and independent judiciaries, legislatures and executive agencies, and commit for democracy to deliver results – these are the people who will find that Americans are their friends, not adversaries. As President Obama made clear last week in Ghana, this Administration will stand for accountable and transparent governance, and support those who work to build democratic institutions wherever they live.

Our approach to foreign policy must reflect the world as it is, not as it used to be. It does not make sense to adapt a 19th century concert of powers, or a 20th century balance of power strategy. We cannot go back to Cold War containment or to unilateralism.

Today, we must acknowledge two inescapable facts that define our world: First, no nation can meet the world’s challenges alone. The issues are too complex. Too many players are competing for influence, from rising powers to corporations to criminal cartels; from NGOs to al-Qaida; from state-controlled media to individuals using Twitter.

Second, most nations worry about the same global threats, from non-proliferation to fighting disease to counterterrorism, but also face very real obstacles – for reasons of history, geography, ideology, and inertia. They face these obstacles and they stand in the way of turning commonality of interest into common action.

So these two facts demand a different global architecture – one in which states have clear incentives to cooperate and live up to their responsibilities, as well as strong disincentives to sit on the sidelines or sow discord and division.

So we will exercise American leadership to overcome what foreign policy experts at places like the Council call “collective action problems” and what I call obstacles to cooperation. For just as no nation can meet these challenges alone, no challenge can be met without America.

And here’s how we’ll do it: We’ll work through existing institutions and reform them. But we’ll go further. We’ll use our power to convene, our ability to connect countries around the world, and sound foreign policy strategies to create partnerships aimed at solving problems. We’ll go beyond states to create opportunities for non-state actors and individuals to contribute to solutions.

We believe this approach will advance our interests by uniting diverse partners around common concerns. It will make it more difficult for others to abdicate their responsibilities or abuse their power, but will offer a place at the table to any nation, group, or citizen willing to shoulder a fair share of the burden. In short, we will lead by inducing greater cooperation among a greater number of actors and reducing competition, tilting the balance away from a multi-polar world and toward a multi-partner world.

Now, we know this approach is not a panacea. We will remain clear-eyed about our purpose. Not everybody in the world wishes us well or shares our values and interests. And some will actively seek to undermine our efforts. In those cases, our partnerships can become power coalitions to constrain or deter those negative actions.

And to these foes and would-be foes, let me say our focus on diplomacy and development is not an alternative to our national security arsenal. Our willingness to talk is not a sign of weakness to be exploited. We will not hesitate to defend our friends, our interests, and above all, our people vigorously and when necessary with the world’s strongest military. This is not an option we seek nor is it a threat; it is a promise to all Americans.

Building the architecture of global cooperation requires us to devise the right policies and use the right tools. I speak often of smart power because it is so central to our thinking and our decision-making. It means the intelligent use of all means at our disposal, including our ability to convene and connect. It means our economic and military strength; our capacity for entrepreneurship and innovation; and the ability and credibility of our new President and his team. It also means the application of old-fashioned common sense in policymaking. It’s a blend of principle and pragmatism.

Smart power translates into specific policy approaches in five areas. First, we intend to update and create vehicles for cooperation with our partners; second, we will pursue principled engagement with those who disagree with us; third, we will elevate development as a core pillar of American power; fourth, we will integrate civilian and military action in conflict areas; and fifth, we will leverage key sources of American power, including our economic strength and the power of our example.

Our first approach is to build these stronger mechanisms of cooperation with our historic allies, with emerging powers, and with multilateral institutions, and to pursue that cooperation in, as I said, a pragmatic and principled way. We don’t see those as in opposition, but as complementary.

We have started by reinvigorating our bedrock alliances, which did fray in recent years. In Europe, that means improved bilateral relationships, a more productive partnership with the European Union, and a revitalized NATO. I believe NATO is the greatest alliance in history. But it was built for the Cold War. The new NATO is a democratic community of nearly a billion people stretching from the Baltics in the East to Alaska in the West. We’re working to update its strategic concept so that it is as effective in this century as it was in the last. At the same time, we are working with our key treaty allies Japan and Korea, Australia, Thailand, and the Philippines and other partners to strengthen our bilateral relationships as well as trans-Pacific institutions. We are both a trans-Atlantic and a trans-Pacific nation.

We will also put special emphasis on encouraging major and emerging global powers – China, India, Russia and Brazil, as well as Turkey, Indonesia, and South Africa – to be full partners in tackling the global agenda. I want to underscore the importance of this task, and my personal commitment to it. These states are vital to achieving solutions to the shared problems and advancing our priorities – nonproliferation, counterterrorism, economic growth, climate change, among others. With these states, we will stand firm on our principles even as we seek common ground.

This week, I will travel to India, where External Affairs Minister Krishna and I will lay out a broad-based agenda that calls for a whole-of-government approach to our bilateral relationship. Later this month, Secretary Geithner and I will jointly lead our new strategic and economic dialogue with China. It will cover not just economic issues, but the range of strategic challenges we face together. In the fall, I will travel to Russia to advance the bi-national presidential commission that Foreign Minister Lavrov and I will co-chair.

The fact of these and other meetings does not guarantee results, but they set in motion processes and relationships that will widen our avenues of cooperation and narrow the areas of disagreement without illusion. We know that progress will not likely come quickly, or without bumps in the road, but we are determined to begin and stay on this path.

Now our global and regional institutions were built for a world that has been transformed, so they too must be transformed and reformed. As the President said following the recent G-8 meeting in Italy, we are seeking institutions that “combine the efficiency and capacity for action with inclusiveness.” From the UN to the World Bank, from the IMF to the G-8 and the G-20, from the OAS and the Summit of the Americas to ASEAN and APEC – all of these and other institutions have a role to play, but their continued vitality and relevance depend on their legitimacy and representativeness, and the ability of their members to act swiftly and responsibly when problems arise.

We also will reach out beyond governments, because we believe partnerships with people play a critical role in our 21st century statecraft. President Obama’s Cairo speech is a powerful example of communicating directly with people from the bottom up. And we are following up with a comprehensive agenda of educational exchanges, outreach, and entrepreneurial ventures. In every country I visit, I look for opportunities to bolster civil society and engage with citizens, whether at a town hall in Baghdad – a first in that country; or appearing on local popular television shows that reach a wide and young audience; or meeting with democracy activists, war widows, or students.

I have appointed special envoys to focus on a number of specific challenges, including the first Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues and an ambassador to build new public-private partnerships and to engage Diaspora communities in the United States to increase opportunities in their native lands. And we are working at the State Department to ensure that our government is using the most innovative technologies not only to speak and listen across borders, not only to keep technologies up and going, but to widen opportunities especially for those who are too often left on the margins. We’re taking these steps because reaching out directly to people will encourage them to embrace cooperation with us, making our partnerships with their governments and with them stronger and more durable.

We’ve also begun to adopt a more flexible and pragmatic posture with our partners. We won’t agree on every issue. Standing firm on our principles shouldn’t prevent us from working together where we can. So we will not tell our partners to take it or leave it, nor will we insist that they’re either with us or against us. In today’s world, that’s global malpractice.

Our diplomacy regarding North Korea is a case in point. We have invested a significant amount of diplomatic resources to achieve Security Council consensus in response to North Korea’s provocative actions. I spoke numerous times to my counterparts in Japan, South Korea, Russia and China, drawing out their concerns, making our principles and redlines clear, and seeking a path forward. The short-term results were two unanimous Security Council resolutions with real teeth and consequences for North Korea, and then the follow-on active involvement of China, Russia, and India with us in persuading others to comply with the resolutions. The long-term result, we believe, will be a tougher joint effort toward the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Cultivating these partnerships and their full range takes time and patience. It also takes persistence. That doesn’t mean procrastinating on urgent issues. Nor is it a justification for delaying efforts that may take years to bear fruit. In one of my favorite observations, Max Weber said, “Politics is the long and slow boring of hard boards. It takes both passion and perspective.” Perspective dictates passion and patience. And of course, passion keeps us from not [sic] finding excuses to do nothing.

Now I’m well aware that time alone does not heal all wounds; consider the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. That’s why we wasted no time in starting an intensive effort on day one to realize the rights of Palestinians and Israelis to live in peace and security in two states, which is in America’s interests and the world’s. We’ve been working with the Israelis to deal with the issue of settlements, to ease the living conditions of Palestinians, and create circumstances that can lead to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. For the last few decades, American administrations have held consistent positions on the settlement issue. And while we expect action from Israel, we recognize that these decisions are politically challenging.

And we know that progress toward peace cannot be the responsibility of the United States – or Israel – alone. Ending the conflict requires action on all sides. The Palestinians have the responsibility to improve and extend the positive actions already taken on security; to act forcefully against incitement; and to refrain from any action that would make meaningful negotiations less likely.

And Arab states have a responsibility to support the Palestinian Authority with words and deeds, to take steps to improve relations with Israel, and to prepare their publics to embrace peace and accept Israel’s place in the region. The Saudi peace proposal, supported by more than twenty nations, was a positive step. But we believe that more is needed. So we are asking those who embrace the proposal to take meaningful steps now. Anwar Sadat and King Hussein crossed important thresholds, and their boldness and vision mobilized peace constituencies in Israel and paved the way for lasting agreements. By providing support to the Palestinians and offering an opening, however modest, to the Israelis, the Arab states could have the same impact. So I say to all sides: Sending messages of peace is not enough. You must also act against the cultures of hate, intolerance and disrespect that perpetuate conflict.

Our second policy approach is to lead with diplomacy, even in the cases of adversaries or nations with whom we disagree. We believe that doing so advances our interests and puts us in a better position to lead with our other partners. We cannot be afraid or unwilling to engage. Yet some suggest that this is a sign of naiveté or acquiescence to these countries’ repression of their own people. I believe that is wrong. As long as engagement might advance our interests and our values, it is unwise to take it off the table. Negotiations can provide insight into regimes’ calculations and the possibility – even if it seems remote – that a regime will eventually alter its behavior in exchange for the benefits of acceptance into the international community. Libya is one such example. Exhausting the option for dialogue is also more likely to make our partners more willing to exert pressure should persuasion fail.

With this in mind, I want to say a few words about Iran. We watched the energy of Iran’s election with great admiration, only to be appalled by the manner in which the government used violence to quell the voices of the Iranian people, and then tried to hide its actions by arresting foreign journalists and nationals, and expelling them, and cutting off access to technology. As we and our G-8 partners have made clear, these actions are deplorable and unacceptable.

We know very well what we inherited with Iran, because we deal with that inheritance every day. We know that refusing to deal with the Islamic Republic has not succeeded in altering the Iranian march toward a nuclear weapon, reducing Iranian support for terror, or improving Iran’s treatment of its citizens.

Neither the President nor I have any illusions that dialogue with the Islamic Republic will guarantee success of any kind, and the prospects have certainly shifted in the weeks following the election. But we also understand the importance of offering to engage Iran and giving its leaders a clear choice: whether to join the international community as a responsible member or to continue down a path to further isolation.

Direct talks provide the best vehicle for presenting and explaining that choice. That is why we offered Iran’s leaders an unmistakable opportunity: Iran does not have a right to nuclear military capacity, and we’re determined to prevent that. But it does have a right to civil nuclear power if it reestablishes the confidence of the international community that it will use its programs exclusively for peaceful purposes.

Iran can become a constructive actor in the region if it stops threatening its neighbors and supporting terrorism. It can assume a responsible position in the international community if it fulfills its obligations on human rights. The choice is clear. We remain ready to engage with Iran, but the time for action is now. The opportunity will not remain open indefinitely.

Our third policy approach, and a personal priority for me as Secretary, is to elevate and integrate development as a core pillar of American power. We advance our security, our prosperity, and our values by improving the material conditions of people’s lives around the world. These efforts also lay the groundwork for greater global cooperation, by building the capacity of new partners and tackling shared problems from the ground up.

A central purpose of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review that I announced last week is to explore how to effectively design, fund, and implement development and foreign assistance as part of a broader foreign policy. Let’s face it. We have devoted a smaller percentage of our government budget to development than almost any other advanced country. And too little of what we have spent has contributed to genuine and lasting progress. Too much of the money has never reached its intended target, but stayed here in America to pay salaries or fund overhead in contracts. I am committed to more partnerships with NGOs, but I want more of our tax dollars to be used effectively and to deliver tangible results.

As we seek more agile, effective, and creative partnerships for development, we will focus on country-driven solutions, such as those we are launching with Haiti on recovery and sustainable development, and with African states on global hunger. These initiatives must not be designed to help countries scrape by – they are a tool to help countries stand on their own.

Our development agenda will also focus on women as drivers of economic growth and social stability. Women have long comprised the majority of the world’s unhealthy, unschooled, and underfed. They are also the bulk of the world’s poor. The global recession has had a disproportionate effect on women and girls, which in turn has repercussions for families, communities, and even regions. Until women around the world are accorded their rights – and afforded the opportunities of education, health care, and gainful employment – global progress and prosperity will have its own glass ceiling.

Our fourth approach is to ensure that our civilian and military efforts operate in a coordinated and complementary fashion where we are engaged in conflict. This is the core of our strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq, where we are integrating our efforts with international partners.

In Afghanistan and Pakistan, our goal is to disrupt, dismantle, and ultimately defeat al-Qaida and its extremist allies, and to prevent their return to either country. Yet Americans often ask, why do we ask our young men and women to risk their lives in Afghanistan when al-Qaida’s leadership is in neighboring Pakistan? And that question deserves a good answer: We and our allies fight in Afghanistan because the Taliban protects al-Qaida and depends on it for support, sometimes coordinating activities. In other words, to eliminate al-Qaida, we must also fight the Taliban.

Now, we understand that not all those who fight with the Taliban support al-Qaida, or believe in the extremist policies the Taliban pursued when in power. And today we and our Afghan allies stand ready to welcome anyone supporting the Taliban who renounces al-Qaida, lays down their arms, and is willing to participate in the free and open society that is enshrined in the Afghan Constitution.

To achieve our goals, President Obama is sending an additional 17,000 troops and 4,000 military trainers to Afghanistan. Equally important, we are sending hundreds of direct hire American civilians to lead a new effort to strengthen the Afghan Government, help rebuild the once-vibrant agricultural sector, create jobs, encourage the rule of law, expand opportunities for women, and train the Afghan police. No one should doubt our commitment to Afghanistan and its people. But it is the Afghan people themselves who will determine their own future.

As we proceed, we must not forget that success in Afghanistan also requires close cooperation from neighboring Pakistan, which I will visit this fall. Pakistan is itself under intense pressure from extremist groups. Trilateral cooperation among Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States has built confidence and yielded progress on a number of policy fronts. Our national security, as well as the future of Afghanistan, depends on a stable, democratic, and economically viable Pakistan. And we applaud the new Pakistani determination to deal with the militants who threaten their democracy and our shared security.

In Iraq, we are bolstering our diplomacy and development programs while we implement a responsible withdrawal of our troops. Last month our combat troops successfully redeployed from towns and cities. Our principal focus is now shifting from security issues to civilian efforts that promote Iraqi capacity – supporting the work of the Iraqi ministries and aiding in their efforts to achieve national unity. And we are developing a long-term economic and political relationship with Iraq as outlined by the US-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement. This Agreement forms the basis of our future cooperation with Iraq and the Iraqi people, and I look forward to discussing it and its implementation with Prime Minister Maliki when he comes to Washington next week.

Our fifth approach is to shore up traditional sources of our influence, including economic strength and the power of our example. We renewed our own values by prohibiting torture and beginning to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. And we have been straightforward about our own measure of responsibility for problems like drug trafficking in Mexico and global climate change. When I acknowledged the obvious about our role in Mexico’s current conflict with narco-traffickers, some were critical. But they’re missing the point. Our capacity to take responsibility, and our willingness to change, to do the right thing, are themselves hallmarks of our greatness as a nation and strategic assets that can help us forge coalitions in the service of our interests.

That is certainly true when it comes to key priorities like nonproliferation and climate change. President Obama is committed to the vision of a world without nuclear weapons and a series of concrete steps to reduce the threat and spread of these weapons, including working with the Senate to ratify the follow-on START agreement and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, taking on greater responsibility within the Non Proliferation Treaty Framework and convening the world’s leaders here in Washington next year for a nuclear summit. Now we must urge others to take practical steps to advance our shared nonproliferation agenda.

Our Administration is also committed to deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, with a plan that will dramatically change the way we produce, consume and conserve energy, and in the process spark an explosion of new investment, and millions of jobs. Now we must urge every other nation to meet its obligations and seize the opportunities of a clean energy future.

We are restoring our economy at home to enhance our strength and capacity abroad, especially at this time of economic turmoil. Now, this is not a traditional priority for a Secretary of State, but I vigorously support American recovery and growth as a pillar of our global leadership. And I am committed to restoring a significant role for the State Department within a whole-of-government approach to international economic policy-making. We will work to ensure that our economic statecraft – trade and investment, debt forgiveness, loan guarantees, technical assistance, decent work practices – support our foreign policy objectives. When coupled with a sound development effort, our economic outreach can give us a better form of globalization, reducing the bitter opposition of recent years and lifting millions more out of poverty.

And finally, I am determined to ensure that the men and women of our Foreign and Civil Service have the resources they need to implement our priorities effectively and safely. That’s why I appointed for the first time a Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources. It’s why we worked so hard to secure additional funding for State and USAID. It’s why we have put ourselves on a path to double foreign assistance over the next few years. And it’s why we are implementing a plan to dramatically increase the number of diplomats and development experts.

Just as we would never deny ammunition to American troops headed into battle, we cannot send our civilian personnel into the field underequipped. If we don’t invest in diplomacy and development, we will end up paying a lot more for conflicts and their consequences. As Secretary Gates has said, diplomacy is an indispensable instrument of national security, as it has been since Franklin, Jefferson and Adams won foreign support for Washington’s army.

Now all of this adds up to a very ambitious agenda. But the world does not afford us the luxury of choosing or waiting. As I said at the outset, we must tackle the urgent, the important and the long-term all at once.

We are both witness to and makers of significant change. We cannot and should not be passive observers. We are determined to channel the currents of change toward a world free of violent extremism, nuclear weapons, global warming, poverty, and abuses of human rights, and above all, a world in which more people in more places can live up to their God-given potential.

The architecture of cooperation we seek to build will advance all these goals, using our power not to dominate or divide but to solve problems. It is the architecture of progress for America and all nations.

More than 230 years ago, Thomas Paine said, “We have it within our power to start the world over again.” Today, in a new and very different era, we are called upon to use that power. I believe we have the right strategy, the right priorities, the right policies, we have the right President, and we have the American people, diverse, committed, and open to the future.

Now all we have to do is deliver. Thank you all very much.

From The Bully Pulpit - Tom

Monday, August 17, 2009

Elements - Audience Identification

Ever hear a politician speak to a room full of people - and spend the whole time expounding on the ninth letter of the alphabet? You know - “I did this, I did that, I made this happen?”

In my line of work, it’s an occupational hazard.

The danger with expounding on the ninth letter of the alphabet this way, is that the interest of the audience quickly evaporates. An audience wants to have some kind of shared connection with the speaker they are listening to. A successful speaker needs to establish “audience identification.” In other words, the speaker has to find a way to get the audience to identify with the speaker, or at the very least, with what is being said.

Repeatedly saying “I,” quickly erodes that identification. That repeated word soon becomes the focus of audience attention.

At the same time, the audience also wants to hear what the politician is doing for them, or, depending on your point of view, doing to them. They expect to hear what’s going on. It’s the fundamental basis of democracy. Voters make up their mind on who they will support in the next election, based on what they know about what has happened in the recent past.

This is a serious conundrum for our political speaker. Credit has to be taken for what is going right. Yet, taking too much of the credit, or worse, taking it in the wrong manner, is a sure-fire formula for losing audience attention and, thus, not getting the credit you deserve anyway.

There is a way around this for the wise political speaker. Instead of saying - “I got such and such a program enacted,” look for an opportunity to involve the audience.

How about - “Mrs. Mary Jones wrote a letter to my office.” Right away, the audience is involved, it’s a story, and it involves an average citizen - someone just like them. Perhaps people in the audience actually know Mary Jones. Perhaps she’s even there that night - in which case, the wise politician has her stand to be recognized, then goes on. “She asked why there wasn’t a program to do such and such. It was a good question, and no one we contacted in government had a good answer. Today, we have that program!”

Without ever saying the words “I or me,” and using “my” only once, our wise politician has made the audience understand that because Mary Jones came to his office with her problem, the program to solve that problem is now up and running.

Working together is a great way to maintain audience identification. A real-life example of it, is even better.

It’s probably not wise, or even possible in most cases, for a speaker to totally avoid using the first person. But over-use is a recipe for disaster.

From The Bully Pulpit - Tom

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Luckiest Man On the Face of the Earth

Speech By: Lou Gehrig
Title: The Luckiest Man On the Face of the Earth
Date: July 4, 1939
Yankee Stadium
Occasion: Official retirement from baseball
Length (words): 273
Video Posted: YouTube


When a famous athlete hangs up his spikes for the last time, it’s an occasion guaranteed to generate much raw emotion. That this moment takes place on the hallowed field where he enjoyed such unparalleled success, before a throng of more than 50,000 cheering fans, only adds to the drama. Keep in mind, most retirement speeches are made after the season, before a room full of sports reporters.

Now consider that the retirement is forced by a fatal illness.

As he has on so many other occasions, Lou Gehrig steps up to the plate to deliver for the fans. But he has to be led to the microphone by manager Joe McCarthy. That accentuates how emotionally difficult this moment is for him.

It’s why this speech is not only number one in the Real Clear Sports list of top ten speeches, but was voted number one by the fans in the YES Network’s poll of the top 25 moments in the history of Yankee Stadium. What’s another championship, when you have drama like this?

One of the key tasks for any public speaker is to establish an identity with the audience. This is not the most difficult task on this day. These are, after all, fans who have come to honor him. Yet he makes the most of it. He refuses to wallow in self-pity. Save for the concession that this is a “bad break,” he makes no mention of having contracted a fatal disease. He instead calls himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

Then he goes on to involve the fans - “I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.” Even today, via an aged film clip, it seems as if he is addressing each of us personally.

He then goes on to mention those who have played such an important role in his life and career - teammates, owner, managers, parents, wife, even his Mother-in-law.

He does all this in only 273 words. He closes by again referring to his bad break, but asserting “I’ve got an awful lot to live for.” That closing line is interesting, because there is some indication he never truly realized, or accepted, that the disease which now bears his name would be fatal.

Gehrig was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in a special election, the summer he gave this speech. A player is not normally eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame, until five years after his retirement. Gehrig died a little less than two years later.

Interestingly, it is difficult to find a complete copy of the film footage of that day. The YouTube video posted here is from Ken Burns’ film Baseball. It is heavily edited, which does help enhance the dramatic appeal, but is not anywhere near complete. The text, as posted on the Lou Gehrig tribute site, has a few transcription errors, which I have tried to correct as much as possible. Other clips are available on the internet, but again, none are complete. It seems a shame. This is a good speech.

For the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break. Today, I consider myself, the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

Look at these grand men. Wouldn't you consider it a privilege to associate yourself with such fine looking men, as are standing in uniform in the ball park today? Sure, I'm lucky. Who wouldn't consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball's greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I'm lucky.

When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift - that's something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies - that's something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter - that's something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body - it's a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed - that's the finest I know.

So I close in saying that I may have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.

From The Bully Pulpit - Tom

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

You Don’t Live In Cleveland? - 10 Top Sports Speeches

They inspire, stir the emotions, and offer a natural audience identification. They also incite frank, impassioned, even heated, debate. We are talking, of course, about sports. Indeed, the speeches associated with sports are also inspirational, emotion stirring, and provide natural identification with the audience. All these qualities have the makings of a good speech.

The folks at Real Clear Sports, an adjunct of Real Clear Politics, have put together what they feel are the 10 Top Sports Speeches of all time. Several of these are clips of athletes speaking at press conferences. I’m not sure these meet the definition of a speech. One is a poem by Jack Buck in response to the attacks on 9/11. Although it is special, I’m not sure it’s a speech either. While I have some facility with prose, I must confess poetry is beyond my ability to assess.

Number nine on the list raises serious questions in my mind. It is a 14 second clip of Cincinnati Bengals coach Sam Wyche grabbing the stadium microphone, to urge an arena full of angry fans not to throw any more objects at the referees who have just blown a call. It’s not a speech. It’s not even a decent public service announcement, as far as I’m concerned. More than that, his assertion that the fans should behave because they are from Cincinnati, not Cleveland, is incredibly disparaging to another part of the home state of Ohio. But go, take a look, and decide for yourself.

It’s not as if there aren’t other choices. This list neglects other famous locker room speeches. How about Yale football coach T.A.D. Jones’ pep talk before the Harvard-Yale game of 1916, back when both those teams were perennial national power houses? “Gentlemen, you are now going to play football against Harvard. Never again in your whole life will you do anything so important.” It inspired his players to a 6-3 victory in what today is known simply as - “The Game.”

Next, we’ll take a look at number one on the list. It’s an oration which truly owns that favored position - Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man On the Face of the Earth” speech.

Real Clear Sports’ Top 10 Sports Speeches

10. Brett Favre - Retirement (First time)

9. Sam Wyche - You Don’t Live in Cleveland

8. Tim Tebow - The Promise

7. Michael Irvin - Hall of Fame Induction

6. Muhammad Ali - How Great I Am

5. Jack Buck - For America

4. Knute Rockne - Win One for the Gipper

3. Herb Brooks - 1980 Olympic Hockey Team

2. Jimmy Valvano - Don’t Ever Give Up

1. Lou Gehrig - Luckiest Man On the Face of the Earth

From The Bully Pulpit - Tom

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Elements - Moving Gingerly

It’s an expression we all use - “I’m moving gingerly.” It may even bring to mind an image of how you were the day after you started playing tennis again - after years away from the sport.

There is, despite its familiarity, a mysterious aspect to the phrase.

What does ginger have to do with it? Is ginger a solution to the problem? If not, why do we say moving gingerly?

Even without knowing the answers, it is easy to see that this, like so many other phrases we commonly use, is there to help us communicate.

The use of this phrase in the English language can be documented at least back to 1607 - the same year the first permanent English settlement in North America, was established at Jamestown. It may have been in use as much as a century earlier. It’s been in use so long, its exact origin is a matter of debate. Well, at least for those who debate such things.

The point is - while a speech must of necessity use words, a language uses more than words. Colloquialisms, common understandings if you will, even when the reason for use of the specific words involved is unclear, are essential to communication.

Common understanding is key to communication, and that is the ultimate purpose of every good speech. Even when the topic about which you are speaking is one which must be approached “gingerly.”

From The Bully Pulpit - Tom


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Speech Writing Elements - What You Must Know

We will, on occasion, examine the fundamental elements of a good speech. Here is the first of these elements.

There are many elements to a successful speech. Carefully chosen words, well-crafted phrases, fully developed ideas, a good delivery, a significant occasion, a fancy Power Point presentation. All make a difference. Which element is most important? Like virtually every human endeavor, success lies in learning the things you must know.

How does a speech writer learn those things? Research. Solid research is the fundamental element of any good speech.

Here are the things the researcher must know -

Know the facts:
It sounds so basic, but it can easily be taken for granted. Especially when you are given information by an “expert.”

I once wrote a speech for a Senator, who had been invited to address a trade group. The Senator’s staff helpfully provided a list of legislation the group supported and the Senate had considered. Each of these bills had passed the Senate, but not the other chamber. It was helpful information, but I took the extra step of checking the precise tally of the vote in the Senate. It turned out only two Senators had voted against the legislation the association wanted. One, was the Senator I was writing the speech for.

That little extra research not only saved the speaker from potential embarrassment, but provided a deeper understanding of the issues facing the intended audience. Which, of course, led me to do a lot more research. From there, I was able to develop a speech along an entirely different theme.

Know the audience:
A clear understanding of what is important to the audience, is at least as essential as knowing what is critical to the speaker for whom you are writing. The audience wants the speaker to deal with their problems, not the speaker’s. At the same time, that audience is almost certainly looking for creative solutions to those problems. Those possible solutions should be provided by the speaker.

What every speech writer must keep in mind is - while they write for the speaker, they also write for the audience who will be listening to that speaker.

Know the greater context:
What outside forces of society affect both the speaker and the audience? How do you deal with those outside forces in trying to achieve your goals?

Know the voice of the speaker:
Each audience and speaker is different. To effectively convey the message, the language must be appropriate for the occasion, the audience and the speaker.

Know the ultimate goal of the speaker:
Is it to address just this one audience? Or is it to reach a larger target? Both audiences must be considered.

In the end, research is the basic element of speech writing, in the same way that Hydrogen is the fundamental element of the universe.

From The Bully Pulpit - Tom