Monday, May 31, 2010

These Honored Dead

In my last post, A Crime To Vote, we examined how the freedoms we enjoy can always be taken away if we do not defend them. Not only that, it seems there is always someone prepared to take those freedoms away.

Today we honor those whose ultimate sacrifice helped preserve those freedoms.

These Honored Dead Is a short YouTube video I did, in tribute to their sacrifice. I hope you will take a few minutes to view it.

From the standpoint of a writer - notice how few words are sometimes needed to communicate important ideas.

From The Bully Pulpit - Memorial Day 2010

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Crime To Vote

Title: Is it a Crime for a Citizen of the United States to Vote?
Speech By: Susan B. Anthony
Date: 1873
Location: Monroe and Ontario Counties, New York
Occasion: Response to indictment for voting in a federal election
Quick question - when did women first vote in a Presidential election?

Was it in 1920, after passage of the Nineteenth amendment? How about two years after the admission of Wyoming to the Union in 1890? Or perhaps it was Susan B. Anthony's solitary act of defiance in 1872? We'll return to that question later.

Having cast a ballot in the 1872 Presidential election, Anthony was indicted a few weeks later for - having voted illegally in a federal election. She responded by delivering this speech.

She gave it in every Town and Village in Monroe County and twenty-one Towns in Ontario County  fifty locations in all! Her question to her listeners was - Is it a crime for a citizen of the United States to vote?

At more than ten thousand words, it is a fairly long speech - probably at least an hour in length.

It is also one of those speeches that might well be considered a “Contra speech,” in that it had an effect that wasn’t considered when it was given. It turned out to be so effective that the federal prosecutor had the trial moved to Canandaigua, to avoid prejudice in the jury pool. Generally, that’s a move the defense makes, not the prosecution.

In the end, Anthony was fined $100 - a fine she never paid.

As for the question at the beginning of this post - when did women first vote in a Presidential election? It was in New Jersey during the election of 1800, the contest between President John Adams, and his Vice  President - Thomas Jefferson. The women who voted were either widows or old maids. Why “widows and maids?” New Jersey had a residency requirement, but its constitution made no mention of any gender restrictions. Like most states of that era, New Jersey required voters  to own a certain amount of property, and married women could not own property independent of their husbands - while adult women who were not married, could.

By 1807, New Jersey’s election laws had been clarified to reflect the original understanding - that women were not meant to vote. That right had been taken away from them.

The lesson? No right is guaranteed to any of us, unless we speak powerfully in its defense.

Text Posted: Famous American Trials
Length (Words): 10,122

From The Bully Pulpit - Tom

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Power Point

During a recent conference call, to discuss the substance of a panel discussion on lobbying for non-profits, my fellow speakers and I were asked by the coordinator what other material would go along with what we had to say. I offered an op-ed piece I’d written on the subject, which had been published in a major daily newspaper.

Aren’t you going to do a Power Point,” he asked? “No,” all four speakers agreed, it wasn’t necessary.

Among other things, I am a lecturer on lobbying in the New York Speakers in the Humanities program, and know how to hold an audience. I don’t use Power point for that either. My fellow speakers were equally accomplished.

It has become so ubiquitous a presence, it is simply called by its brand name - Power Point. The word “presentation” is no longer required. A Power Point is understood by all. Well, at least in one sense it’s understood.

A recent New York Times story describes how this tool can serve to confuse an audience, rather than clarify things. As shown in the “illustration” above - Power Point can produce some really atrocious results.

Before developing a slide show every speaker should first ask - is it really suitable for the type of presentation being given? Imagine, for instance, a President giving a Power Point at their inaugural. It would make history, all right, but I’m not sure it would be the kind that would be looked on kindly by future historians.

The point is simple - don’t decide to do a Power Point just because so many other people do. That’s not a very good reason.

Here are a couple of things to consider when you are making the decision:
  • How big is the audience? Power Point lends itself to large audiences. If you are speaking to only thirty or forty people, it may not be appropriate. If your audience can fit in a conference room, you should hand out written material instead.
  • Does your material lend itself to a presentation? If you are giving a talk on the vast variety of galaxies discovered by the Hubble telescope, where there are a lot of interesting visuals, then it certainly makes sense. If you are talking about lobbying for non-profits, maybe not.

Our talk on lobbying was given to 27 people. There were many questions, and a lot of direct interaction between the speakers and the audience. A Power Point presentation would have inhibited that.

It’s an important lesson for every speaker. Decide on creating a Power Point based on what you have to communicate, and the size of the audience. Don’t do it because the audience, or some event coordinator, has come to expect it.

From The Bully Pulpit - Tom