25 January 2011

Hoping it's "au revoir, Perkins"

We're about to go on a cruise along the northern Norwegian coast in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights.

So I don't expect to be doing much blogging or tweeting over the next few days. However, I do very much hope that, for regular visitors, the answer to Jonathan Miller's question will be the opposite of Peter Cook's reply in this classic sketch from Beyond the Fringe:

20 January 2011

50 years since John F Kennedy asked not... (3) Modelled for the media

video

This is the third in a series of posts to mark the 50th anniversary of John F Kennedy's inaugural speech on 20th January 1961. The first two were:
Now that the BBC website has gone live with an article and notes I wrote on the speech (HERE), I feel free to reproduce one of the points made in it, accompanied by another edited clip from the speech (above) and transcript (below).

The following section from the piece on the BBC website commends Kennedy for following 'the first rule of speech-preparation: analyse your audience'.

If you wonder where that came from, I have to confess that that I was immodest enough to have taken it from my own books Lend Me Your Ears (pp. 280-286) and Speech-making and Presentation Made Easy (pp. 34-37).

First inaugural designed for the media?
Impressive though the rhetoric and imagery may have been, what really made the speech memorable was that it was the first inaugural address by a US president to follow the first rule of speech-preparation: analyse your audience - or, to be more precise at a time when mass access to television was in its infancy, analyse your audiences.

In the most famous fictional speech of all time, Mark Antony had shown sensitivity to his different audiences in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar by asking his "Friends, Romans, countrymen" to lend him their ears. But Kennedy had many more audiences in mind than those who happened to be in Washington that day.

His countrymen certainly weren't left out, appearing as they did in the opening and towards the end with his most famous contrast of all: "Ask not..." But he knew, perhaps better than any previous US president, that local Americans were no longer the only audience that mattered. The age of a truly global mass media had dawned, which meant that what he said would be seen, heard or reported everywhere in the world.

At the height of the Cold War, Kennedy also had a foreign policy agenda that he wanted to be heard everywhere in the world. So the different segments of the speech were specifically targeted at a series of different audiences:

"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill"
"To those new nations whom we welcome to the ranks of the free"
"To those in the huts and villages of half the globe"
"To our sister republics south of the border"
"To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations"
"Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary"

The following day, there was nothing on the front pages of two leading US newspapers, The New York Times and the Washington Post to suggest that the countrymen in his audience had been particularly impressed by the speech - neither of them referred to any of the lines above that have become so famous.

The fact that so much of the speech is still remembered around the world 50 years later is a measure of Kennedy's success in knowing exactly what he wanted to say,
how best to say it and, perhaps most important of all, to whom he should say it.

More on JFK's target audiences
In fact, Kennedy aimed his speech at twice as many audiences as those mentioned in the above extract from the BBC website. You can listen to edited clips in the video at the top of the page and follow them in the transcript below:

VIPs on the platform & US citizens
Vice-president Johnson, Mr Speaker, Mr Chief Justice, President Eisenhower, Vice-president Nixon, President Truman, Reverend clergy, fellow citkzens…

Everyone in the world
Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans…

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill …

Allies
To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share…

Emerging nations
To those new states whom we welcome to the ranks of the free…

Third world
To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery…

Latin America
To our sister republics south of our border…

North & South America
Let all our neighbors know…

United Nations
To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations…

Communist countries
Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary…

US citizens
And so, my fellow Americans…

Citizens outside the USA
My fellow citizens of the world…

US + Non-US citizens of the world
Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world…

Postscript: Kennedy's fashion legacy
Apart from putting much effort into what he wanted to say to whom, JFK also put quite a bit of thought into what the inaugural would look like in the global media. Jackie Kennedy's white coat was deliberately selected to ensure that she would stand out on a platform mainly populated by men in dark clothes.

And, the heavy snow in Washington the day before didn't prevent him from appearing without an overcoat or a hat. The former was made possible by his decision to wear thermal underwear - which presumably kept him warm enough not to bother wearing a hat.

This may have been all very well for him, but his hat-free head marked kicked off a new era for men in the Western world, in which routine hat wearing went out of fashion - look at any picture of a football crowd before 1961, and you'll see that the men all wore hats or caps. As a result, half the population has been condemned to being colder in winter than we'd have been without Kennedy's fashion legacy.

So, however much I may admire his rhetoric, I am definitely not an admirer of his lack of headwear.

Related posts

19 January 2011

50 years since John F Kennedy asked not... (2) Which lines were noticed on the day?

This is the second in a series of posts to mark the 50th anniversary of John F Kennedy's inaugural speech in 1961, the first of which was 'Sounds of silence.'

video

My first book on public speaking described the main rhetorical techniques that trigger applause in political speeches (Our Masters' Voices, 1984), the story of which can be found in the Claptrap series (HERE).

Quotability
It included a chapter on 'Quotability', which looked at how the lines that get applauded are much more likely to be noticed and reported in the media that those that don't - and that a tiny minority of these are remembered long enough to end up in dictionaries of quotations.

Given the central role of Barack Obama's oratory as he emerged from nowhere via the DNC in 2004 through an inspiring election campaign to become US president, I was intrigued to see various commentators complaining that his inaugural speech wasn't up to his usual standard. For one thing, the critics said, it was a bit short on memorable quotes compared with JKF's masterful effort back in 1961.

This intrigued me enough to check back on the front pages of two leading American newspapers, the New York Times and the Washington Post to see which lines from Kennedy's inaugural speech had been quoted on their front pages the following day (21 January 1961).

To my surprise, the answer was none of them (HERE), even though quite a few of Kennedy's inaugural lines lines not only made it into dictionaries of quotations, but will be aired again this week as the media get into the swing of commemorating the speech's 5oth anniversary.

The audience got it right
But if you look at the lines that were applauded by the audience who where actually there on the day (see video sequence above and transcript below), you'll see that they did a rather better job than some of the media when it came to spotting the lines that were eventually to become 'memorable'.

Those in Washington that day were sufficiently moved by eleven of the things Kennedy said to react with a positive physical response (applause). And, I predict, you'll certainly have seen many or most of them before - in which case, it supports the point made about the connection between clapping and quotability in Our Master's Voices.

The power of contrasts
Given the emphasis in my teaching and writing on the effectiveness of different types of contrast in the armoury of rhetorical techniques, an added bonus for me is that contrasts featured in about half of the examples that were applauded - including some of the most famous quotations of all.

Where did the tiger come from?
In the midst of Kennedy's flourishes of imagery in some of these lines, there's one that still puzzles me. The audience would presumably not have applauded if they hadn't both understood and approved of what he meant when he said "those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside."

But to my British ears, it's always struck me as the oddest metaphor in the speech and my attempts to find out where it came from have so far been unsuccessful. If any readers can enlighten me, it would be great to hear from you.

P.S. More on the tiger
Thanks to the reader who replied with this email:

"I think Kennedy was alluding to Churchill's remark: 'the dictators ride to and fro on tigers they dare not dismount and the tigers are getting hungry.' I wish I could find out when and where he said it. I wonder if it was a speech in the USA."

Can anyone else help on this?


Text of applauded lines
Let the word go forth
from this time and place,
to friend and foe alike,
that the torch has been passed
to a new generation of Americans—
born in this century,
tempered by war,
disciplined by a hard and bitter peace,
proud of our ancient heritage—
and unwilling to witness or permit
the slow undoing
of those human rights
to which this nation has always been committed,
and to which we are committed today
at home and around the world.
[Applause]

Let every nation know,
whether it wishes us well or ill,
that we shall pay any price,
bear any burden,
meet any hardship,
support any friend,
oppose any foe
to assure the survival
and the success of liberty.
[Applause]

To those new states whom we welcome
to the ranks of the free,
we pledge our word
that one form of colonial control
shall not have passed away
merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny.
We shall not always expect to find them
supporting our view.
But we shall always hope to find them
strongly supporting their own freedom-
-and to remember that, in the past,
those who foolishly sought power
by riding the back of the tiger
ended up inside.
[Applause]

To those people
in the huts and villages
of half the globe
struggling to break the bonds of mass misery,
we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves,
for whatever period is required—
not because the communists may be doing it,
not because we seek their votes,
but because it is right.
If a free society
cannot help the many who are poor,
it cannot save the few who are rich.
[Applause]

Let all our neighbors know
that we shall join with them
to oppose aggression or subversion
anywhere
in the Americas.
And let every other power know
that this Hemisphere intends to remain
the master of its own house.
[Applause]

So let us begin anew—
remembering on both sides
that civility is not a sign of weakness,
and sincerity is always subject to proof.
Let us never negotiate
out of fear.
But let us never fear to negotiate.
[Applause]

Let both sides, for the first time,
formulate serious and precise proposals
for the inspection and control of arms—
and bring the absolute power
to destroy other nations
under the absolute control of all nations.
[Applause]

All this will not be finished
in the first one hundred days.
Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days,
nor in the life of this Administration,
nor even perhaps in our lifetime
on this planet.
But let us begin.
[Applause]

Can we forge against these enemies
a grand and global alliance,
North and South,
East and West,
that can assure a more fruitful life
for all mankind?
Will you join in that historic effort?
[Yeah+Applause]

In the long history of the world,
only a few generations
have been granted the role
of defending freedom
in its hour of maximum danger.
I do not shrink from this responsibility--I welcome it.
[Applause]

And so, my fellow Americans:
ask not
what your country can do for you
- ask what you can do for your country.
[Applause]

My fellow citizens of the world:
ask not
what America will do for you,
but what together we can do
for the freedom of man.
[Applause]

17 January 2011

50 years since John F Kennedy asked not in his inaugural (1) Sounds of silence



This is the first in a series of posts marking to the 50th anniversary, on 20th January 2011, of President John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech.

The BBC website recently asked me to provide some comments on the speech, which will be appearing there on 19 January. Leading up to the anniversary itself, I'll also be posting a series of related comments here.

To begin with, it seemed appropriate to post a video of the whole speech, together with a transcript laid out in a way that you may not have seen before - where the gaps between each line represent a pause.

Sounds of silence
I begin most of my courses by emphasising that speaking in public and speaking in private (e.g. conversation) are very different - for more on which, see Lend Me Your Ears, Chapters 1-2.

One difference is that we spend most of our talking lives trying to avoid silences, which is one reason why "ums" and "ers" are so common in conversation - where even pauses of less than half a second are likely to be noticed as 'embarrassing' and often indicate that some kind of trouble is on its way (e.g. disagreements, refusals, rejections, etc.).

As a result, pausing far more frequently and for much longer periods than we typically do in everyday conversation doesn't come naturally to inexperienced public speakers and presenters, who have to learn to stop doing something they're thoroughly familiar with - "umming" and"erring" - and start doing something that feels very strange to them - pausing.

Two simple exercises
To get an idea of just how often effective public speakers pause, it's a useful exercise to listen to famous speeches while, at the same time, reading a transcript showing the pauses. Another is to read text of a speech aloud and pause in different places with a view to finding out what difference it can make to the mood and meaning of the message.

Here you can try out the first of these exercises by paying particular attention to how frequently he pauses. Check this against speeches by other effective speakers like President Obama, Martin Luther King and Tony Blair, and you'll quickly discover (and perhaps be surprised by) just how short each continuous burst of words actually is.

Pause-by-pause script of JFK's inaugural speech
We observe today
not a victory of party
but a celebration of freedom.
symbolizing an end
as well as a beginning
signifying renewal
as well as change.

For I have sworn before you
and Almighty God
the same solemn oath
our forbears prescribed
nearly a century and three-quarters ago.

The world is very different now.
For man holds in his mortal hands
the power to abolish
all forms of human poverty
and all forms of human life.
And yet the same
revolutionary beliefs
for which our forebears fought
are still at issue around the globe —
the belief that the rights of man
come not from the generosity of the state
but from the hand of God.

We dare not forget today
that we are the heirs of that first revolution.

Let the word go forth
from this time and place,
to friend and foe alike,
that the torch has been passed
to a new generation of Americans—
born in this century,
tempered by war,
disciplined by a hard and bitter peace,
proud of our ancient heritage—
and unwilling to witness or permit
the slow undoing
of those human rights
to which this nation has always been committed,
and to which we are committed today
at home and around the world.
[Applause]

Let every nation know,
whether it wishes us well or ill,
that we shall pay any price,
bear any burden,
meet any hardship,
support any friend,
oppose any foe
to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
[Applause]

This much we pledge--and more.
To those old allies
whose cultural
and spiritual origins we share,
we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends.

United there is little we cannot do
in a host of cooperative ventures.
Divided there is little we can do—
for we dare not meet a powerful challenge
at odds
and split asunder.

To those new states whom we welcome
to the ranks of the free,
we pledge our word
that one form of colonial control
shall not have passed away
merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny.
We shall not always expect to find them
supporting our view.
But we shall always hope to find them
strongly supporting their own freedom-
- and to remember that, in the past,
those who foolishly sought power
by riding the back of the tiger
ended up inside.
[Applause]

To those people
in the huts and villages
of half the globe
struggling to break the bonds of mass misery,
we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves,
for whatever period is required —
not because the communists may be doing it,
not because we seek their votes,
but because it is right.

If a free society
cannot help the many who are poor,
it cannot save the few who are rich.
[Applause]

To our sister republics
south of our border,
we offer a special pledge—
to convert our good words
into good deeds—
in a new alliance for progress—
to assist free men
and free governments
in casting off the chains of poverty.

But this peaceful revolution of hope
cannot become the prey
of hostile powers.

Let all our neighbors know
that we shall join with them
to oppose aggression or subversion
anywhere
in the Americas.
And let every other power know
that this Hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house.
[Applause]

To that world assembly of sovereign states,
the United Nations,
our last best hope
in an age where the instruments of war
have far outpaced
the instruments of peace,
we renew our pledge of support
--to prevent it from becoming
merely a forum for invective-
-to strengthen its shield
of the new and the weak—
and to enlarge the area
in which its writ may run.

Finally,
to those nations
who would make themselves our adversary,
we offer not a pledge
but a request:
that both sides
begin anew the quest for peace,
before the dark powers of destruction
unleashed by science
engulf all humanity
in planned or accidental
self-destruction.

We dare not tempt them with weakness.
For only when our arms
are sufficient beyond doubt
can we be certain beyond doubt
that they will never be employed.

But neither can two great
and powerful groups of nations
take comfort from our present course—
both sides overburdened
by the cost of modern weapons,
both rightly alarmed
by the steady spread of the deadly atom,
yet both racing to alter
that uncertain balance of terror
that stays the hand of mankind's
final war.

So let us begin anew—
remembering on both sides
that civility is not a sign of weakness,
and sincerity is always subject to proof.

Let us never negotiate
out of fear.
But let us never fear to negotiate.
[Applause]

Let both sides explore what problems unite us
instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.

Let both sides, for the first time,
formulate serious and precise proposals
for the inspection and control of arms—
and bring the absolute power
to destroy other nations
under the absolute control of all nations.
[Applause]

Let both sides seek to invoke
the wonders of science
instead of its terrors.

Together let us explore the stars,
conquer the deserts,
eradicate disease,
tap the ocean depths
and encourage the arts and commerce.

Let both sides unite to heed
in all corners of the earth
the command of Isaiah—
to "undo the heavy burdens . . .
and let the oppressed go free."

And
if a beachhead of cooperation
may push back the jungle of suspicion,
let both sides join in creating
a new endeavor,
not a new balance of power,
but a new world of law,
where the strong are just
and the weak secure
and the peace preserved.

All this will not be finished
in the first one hundred days.
Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days,
nor in the life of this Administration,
nor even perhaps in our lifetime
on this planet.
But let us begin.
[Applause]

In your hands, my fellow citizens,
more than mine,
will rest the final success or failure
of our course. Since this country was founded,
each generation of Americans
has been summoned to give testimony
to its national loyalty.

The graves of young Americans
who answered the call to service
surround the globe.

Now the trumpet
summons us again—
not as a call to bear arms,
though arms we need
-- not as a call to battle,
though embattled we are
but a call to bear the burden
of a long twilight struggle,
year in
and year out, "
rejoicing in hope,
patient in tribulation"-
-a struggle against the common enemies of man:
tyranny,
poverty,
disease
and war itself.

Can we forge against these enemies
a grand and global alliance,
North and South,
East and West,
that can assure a more fruitful life
for all mankind?
Will you join in that historic effort?

Yeah [Applause]

In the long history of the world,
only a few generations
have been granted the role
of defending freedom
in its hour of maximum danger.
I do not shrink from this responsibility--I welcome it.
[Applause]

I do not believe
that any of us
would exchange places with any other people
or any other generation.

The energy,
the faith,
the devotion
which we bring to this endeavor
will light our country and all who serve it-
-and the glow from that fire
can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans:
ask not
what your country can do for you
- ask what you can do for your country.
[Applause]

My fellow citizens of the world:
ask not
what America will do for you,
but what together we can do for
the freedom of man.
[Applause]

Finally, whether you are
citizens of America
or citizens of the world,
ask of us here
the same high standards
of strength and sacrifice
which we ask of you.

With a good conscience
our only sure reward,
with history the final judge of our deeds,
let us go forth to lead the land we love,
asking His blessing
and His help,
but knowing that here on earth
God's work must truly be our own.

NHS threatened with turmoil by Cameron's 3 priorities?

News that David Cameron will be making make a statement today defending his government's controversial changes to the National Health Service - described by the president of the British Medical Association yesterday as potentially damaging to patients - has got me wondering what the PM actually meant at the Conservative Party conference back in 2006.

Contrasting his three main priorities with those of Tony Blair sounded impressive enough, but was it anything more than a demonstration that he too could hit the headlines with the simplest rhetorical technique of them all?

video

13 January 2011

Obama's memorial masterpiece in Arizona

I spent much of yesterday writing about a rather famous American speech (on which more later). The day before that, I'd talked for a while on the phone to a young friend who's working on an address he's planning to give at his mother's funeral this weekend.

Today began with President Obama's memorial address in Arizona - first with news on the BBC Radio 4's Today programme about what a good job he'd done, and then from a Twitter link to the speech itself (in full below).

From the moment his opening contrast - "I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today, and will stand by you tomorrow" - prompted the first of many bursts of applause, I was taken back to the first time I ever saw him speak - at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Before seeing that, I'd never heard of Barack Obama. But a single viewing was enough to know that we were in the presence of a truly great speaker.

We now have another truly great specimen of him plying his art at its finest. It will doubtless keep students of rhetoric busy for quite a while. But today I've neither the time nor the inclination to do more than to urge readers to watch, listen and follow the transcript below.

Memorial addresses, eulogies and tributes really do matter, as I've written and blogged about before - and, on all too many occasions, have been personally involved in doing before.

If ever there were a case where it's worth following the injunction 'read, mark, learn and inwardly digest', this is it. So too were some of those referred to in the links between the video and the text.


Related Posts:
Transcript of President Obama's memorial speech in Arizona

Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Please, please be seated. (Applause.) To the families of those we've lost; to all who called them friends; to the students of this university, the public servants who are gathered here, the people of Tucson and the people of Arizona: I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today and will stand by you tomorrow. (Applause.)

There is nothing I can say that will fill the sudden hole torn in your hearts. But know this: The hopes of a nation are here tonight. We mourn with you for the fallen. We join you in your grief. And we add our faith to yours that Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other living victims of this tragedy will pull through. (Applause.)

Scripture tells us: There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. On Saturday morning, Gabby, her staff and many of her constituents gathered outside a supermarket to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and free speech. (Applause.)

They were fulfilling a central tenet of the democracy envisioned by our founders -- representatives of the people answering questions to their constituents, so as to carry their concerns back to our nation's capital. Gabby called it "Congress on Your Corner" -- just an updated version of government of and by and for the people. (Applause.)

And that quintessentially American scene, that was the scene that was shattered by a gunman's bullets. And the six people who lost their lives on Saturday -- they, too, represented what is best in us, what is best in America. (Applause.)

Judge John Roll served our legal system for nearly 40 years. (Applause.) A graduate of this university and a graduate of this law school -- (applause) -- Judge Roll was recommended for the federal bench by John McCain 20 years ago -- (applause) -- appointed by President George H.W. Bush and rose to become Arizona's chief federal judge. (Applause.)

His colleagues described him as the hardest-working judge within the Ninth Circuit. He was on his way back from attending Mass, as he did every day, when he decided to stop by and say hi to his representative. John is survived by his loving wife, Maureen, his three sons and his five beautiful grandchildren. (Applause.)

George and Dorothy Morris -- "Dot" to her friends -- were high school sweethearts who got married and had two daughters. They did everything together -- traveling the open road in their RV, enjoying what their friends called a 50-year honeymoon. Saturday morning, they went by the Safeway to hear what their congresswoman had to say. When gunfire rang out, George, a former Marine, instinctively tried to shield his wife. (Applause.)

Both were shot. Dot passed away. A New Jersey native, Phyllis Schneck retired to Tucson to beat the snow. But in the summer, she would return East, where her world revolved around her three children, her seven grandchildren and 2-year-old great-granddaughter. A gifted quilter, she'd often work under a favorite tree, or sometimes she'd sew aprons with the logos of the Jets and the Giants -- (laughter) -- to give out at the church where she volunteered. A Republican, she took a liking to Gabby, and wanted to get to know her better. (Applause.)

Dorwan and Mavy Stoddard grew up in Tucson together -- about 70 years ago. They moved apart and started their own respective families. But after both were widowed they found their way back here, to, as one of Mavy's daughters put it, "be boyfriend and girlfriend again." (Laughter.) When they weren't out on the road in their motor home, you could find them just up the road, helping folks in need at the Mountain Avenue Church of Christ. A retired construction worker, Dorwan spent his spare time fixing up the church along with his dog, Tux. His final act of selflessness was to dive on top of his wife, sacrificing his life for hers. (Applause.)

Everything -- everything -- Gabe Zimmerman did, he did with passion. (Applause.) But his true passion was helping people. As Gabby's outreach director, he made the cares of thousands of her constituents his own, seeing to it that seniors got the Medicare benefits that they had earned, that veterans got the medals and the care that they deserved, that government was working for ordinary folks. He died doing what he loved -- talking with people and seeing how he could help. And Gabe is survived by his parents, Ross and Emily, his brother, Ben, and his fiancée, Kelly, who he planned to marry next year. (Applause.)

And then there is nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green. Christina was an A student; she was a dancer; she was a gymnast; she was a swimmer. She decided that she wanted to be the first woman to play in the Major Leagues, and as the only girl on her Little League team, no one put it past her. (Applause.)

She showed an appreciation for life uncommon for a girl her age. She'd remind her mother, "We are so blessed. We have the best life." And she'd pay those blessings back by participating in a charity that helped children who were less fortunate. Our hearts are broken by their sudden passing. Our hearts are broken -- and yet, our hearts also have reason for fullness. Our hearts are full of hope and thanks for the 13 Americans who survived the shooting, including the congresswoman many of them went to see on Saturday. I have just come from the University Medical Center, just a mile from here, where our friend Gabby courageously fights to recover even as we speak.

And I want to tell you -- her husband Mark is here and he allows me to share this with you -- right after we went to visit, a few minutes after we left her room and some of her colleagues in Congress were in the room, Gabby opened her eyes for the first time. (Applause.) Gabby opened her eyes for the first time. (Applause.) Gabby opened her eyes. Gabby opened her eyes, so I can tell you she knows we are here. She knows we love her. And she knows that we are rooting for her through what is undoubtedly going to be a difficult journey. We are there for her. (Applause.)

Our hearts are full of thanks for that good news, and our hearts are full of gratitude for those who saved others. We are grateful to Daniel Hernandez -- (applause) -- a volunteer in Gabby's office. (Applause.) And, Daniel, I'm sorry, you may deny it, but we've decided you are a hero because -- (applause) -- you ran through the chaos to minister to your boss, and tended to her wounds and helped keep her alive. (Applause.) We are grateful to the men who tackled the gunman as he stopped to reload. (Applause.) Right over there. (Applause.) We are grateful for petite Patricia Maisch, who wrestled away the killer's ammunition, and undoubtedly saved some lives. (Applause.)

And we are grateful for the doctors and nurses and first responders who worked wonders to heal those who'd been hurt. We are grateful to them. (Applause.)

These men and women remind us that heroism is found not only on the fields of battle. They remind us that heroism does not require special training or physical strength. Heroism is here, in the hearts of so many of our fellow citizens, all around us, just waiting to be summoned -- as it was on Saturday morning. Their actions, their selflessness poses a challenge to each of us. It raises a question of what, beyond prayers and expressions of concern, is required of us going forward. How can we honor the fallen? How can we be true to their memory?

You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations -- to try and pose some order on the chaos and make sense out of that which seems senseless. Already we've seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health system.

And much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government. But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized -- at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do -- it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we're talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds. (Applause.)

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, "When I looked for light, then came darkness." Bad things happen, and we have to guard against simple explanations in the aftermath. For the truth is none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped these shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man's mind. Yes, we have to examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of such violence in the future. (Applause.)

But what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other. (Applause.) That we cannot do. (Applause.) That we cannot do. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let's use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together. (Applause.)

After all, that's what most of us do when we lose somebody in our family -- especially if the loss is unexpected. We're shaken out of our routines. We're forced to look inward. We reflect on the past: Did we spend enough time with an aging parent, we wonder. Did we express our gratitude for all the sacrifices that they made for us? Did we tell a spouse just how desperately we loved them, not just once in a while but every single day?

So sudden loss causes us to look backward -- but it also forces us to look forward; to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us. (Applause.) We may ask ourselves if we've shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives. Perhaps we question whether we're doing right by our children, or our community, whether our priorities are in order.

We recognize our own mortality, and we are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this Earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame -- but rather, how well we have loved -- (applause)-- and what small part we have played in making the lives of other people better. (Applause.)

And that process -- that process of reflection, of making sure we align our values with our actions -- that, I believe, is what a tragedy like this requires. For those who were harmed, those who were killed -- they are part of our family, an American family 300 million strong. (Applause.)

We may not have known them personally, but surely we see ourselves in them. In George and Dot, in Dorwan and Mavy, we sense the abiding love we have for our own husbands, our own wives, our own life partners. Phyllis -- she's our mom or our grandma; Gabe our brother or son. (Applause.) In Judge Roll, we recognize not only a man who prized his family and doing his job well, but also a man who embodied America's fidelity to the law. (Applause.)

And in Gabby -- in Gabby, we see a reflection of our public-spiritedness; that desire to participate in that sometimes frustrating, sometimes contentious, but always necessary and never-ending process to form a more perfect union. (Applause.)

And in Christina -- in Christina we see all of our children. So curious, so trusting, so energetic, so full of magic. So deserving of our love. And so deserving of our good example. If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate -- as it should -- let's make sure it's worthy of those we have lost. (Applause.)

Let's make sure it's not on the usual plane of politics and point-scoring and pettiness that drifts away in the next news cycle. The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better. To be better in our private lives, to be better friends and neighbors and coworkers and parents.

And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their death helps usher in more civility in our public discourse, let us remember it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy -- it did not -- but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation in a way that would make them proud. (Applause.)

We should be civil because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other's ideas without questioning each other's love of country and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American Dream to future generations. (Applause.)

They believed -- they believed, and I believe that we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved life here -- they help me believe. We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another, that's entirely up to us. (Applause.)

And I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us. (Applause.)

That's what I believe, in part because that's what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed. (Applause.)

Imagine -- imagine for a moment, here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that some day she, too, might play a part in shaping her nation's future. She had been elected to her student council. She saw public service as something exciting and hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted. I want to live up to her expectations. (Applause.)

I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it. (Applause.) All of us -- we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations. (Applause.)

As has already been mentioned, Christina was given to us on September 11th, 2001, one of 50 babies born that day to be pictured in a book called "Faces of Hope." On either side of her photo in that book were simple wishes for a child's life. "I hope you help those in need," read one. "I hope you know all the words to the National Anthem and sing it with your hand over your heart." (Applause.) "I hope you jump in rain puddles." If there are rain puddles in Heaven, Christina is jumping in them today. (Applause.)

And here on this Earth -- here on this Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and we commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit.

May God bless and keep those we've lost in restful and eternal peace. May He love and watch over the survivors. And may He bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

10 January 2011

Miliband does well with instant rebuttal + 3 things that Alan Johnson does know

I didn't see the whole of Ed Miliband's press conference this morning, but did see quite a lot of comments on Twitter suggesting that he did better in the Q-A session after his formal statement than in the statement itself.

As I'd already questioned his effectiveness in 'face-to-camera' pieces a few days ago (HERE), I was intrigued enough to see whether any of the news channels had posted anything from the Q-A session yet.

The BBC instantly obliged with the following short clip, that is indeed rather interesting (full report HERE).

Welcoming smiles from Ed Miliband?
Note that, when Joey Jones from Sky News refers to Shadow Chancellor Alan Johnson's weekend gaffe, Mr Miliband grins (at 38 & 40 seconds in).

Not so much 'nervous' grins, I suggest, as an 'I know what you're talking about, I'm a good sport with a sense of humour, I expected that and what's more I've got a prepared answer up my sleeve' sort of grin.

And that's what he had: an instant rebuttal contrasting Johnson favourably with Chancellor Osborne, explained by three things about the economy that the former does know about:


Instant rebuttal as a useful weapon for interviewees
In conversation, answering "No" to a question that's looking for a "Yes" - instantly and without any delay, "ums", "ers" or other particles indicating that a 'dispreferred' answer is on its way - doesn't happen very often (for more on 'dispreferred answers', see Did The Godfather feature the longest pause and most blatant lie in the history of movies?)

But it really comes into its own when you want to ensure time to give reasons why you are disagreeing so immediately. As soon as you've done it, the floor is still yours for a while, as your questioner will expect and wait for you to explain why you don't agree before he/she speaks again.

If you then package your message as a contrast between Chancellor and Shadow-chancellor and explain it with brief list of three things that the latter does know, you're likely to come across as decisive, articulate and confident. It might even persuade or convince some of your listeners that you're right.

A promising day for Miliband
On the basis of this specimen, at least, I can see why the Twitterati thought that Miliband did better in the Q-A session than in the statement that preceded it. More generally, it may be evidence that he and his communication team are beginning to get the hang of things.

7 January 2011

Who says managers can't talk about numbers without using slides?

My attention was drawn to this by a Twitter link from Shane Greer (@shanegreer), to whom many thanks.

It's a TED talk on Why we have too few women leaders by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and is well worth watching, not just because of her very effective use of anecdotes, rhetorical questions and a three-part structure that she sticks with and helps the audience to follow, but because of the complete absence of slides - even though you might have expected some as she goes through some key numbers and percentages.

What Ms Sandberg demonstrates, yet again, is that managers can give clear and compelling presentations about complicated subjects without having to depend on slides at all.

Although this is something I've been teaching, writing books and blogging about for years, it's always good to come across new videos like this that can be used to illustrate the point.

It's also interesting to reflect on just how important a part might have been played by Ms Sandberg's own presentation skills in helping her to break through the glass ceiling that she's talking about.


P.S. Charismatic woman?
Watching this again, I was reminded of something I wrote in Our Masters' Voices (1984) about the way Margaret Thatcher partly solved one of the central problems facing professional women - also posted HERE a couple of years ago and then developed in another post about Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin.

From what we see in this video, it would appear that, like Thatcher and Palin, Sheryl Sandberg has no qualms about coming across as unequivocally female in the way she dresses and appears. Given my ancient thoughts on the 'evolution of charismatic woman' from 27+ years ago, I'm therefore left wondering how 'tough' and 'decisive' she is as a leader in her everyday work.

4 January 2011

Labour leadership: from Welsh windbag to Doncaster droner?

Although this clip was posted on YouTube by ITN, I didn't see it featured in its entirety on any of the ITN news bulletins.

However, some Labour supporters must have thought well enough of it for Labour List to embed the whole 2 minute statement on their blog (HERE).

What surprised me about it was that Mr Miliband seemed to ramble on for so long about so little - in marked contrast with some of his much more pithy statements during the Labour leadership campaign, where, on at least one occasion (the Sky News debate), he stood out from the other the candidates as the only one who knew exactly how much he could say in the allotted 20 seconds.

As the second 'face to camera' statement I've seen from Mr Miliband over the past couple of weeks (see also his Christmas message) - neither of which struck me as impressive as some of his performances during the leadership campaign - it's got me wondering what's going on.

Does he have new advisors who think he excels at this form of communication?

Or has the Welsh Windbag, now he's been given his party back by the new leader, been allowed behind the scenes to transform him into the Doncaster droner?