Friday, January 28, 2011

Making a Speech or Other Presentation Indelible, If Not Immortal

In my post of Nov. 21 last year, I pointed out that FDR’s “infamy speech” is a perfect example of how a single, fresh, out-of-the-ordinary, word or phrase that is also strong and evocative can sometimes help make a speech or other presentation memorable, if not immortal. Last week, which marked the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s inauguration as president, there wasn’t a news program in the nation that did not broadcast an excerpt of the inaugural he delivered on that bitterly cold morning of January 20, 1961, especially the line “And so my fellow Americans, ask not…” (see video clip below) which captured the essence of the speaker’s central message. In fact, that particular line is so deeply entrenched in the American psyche that, 100 years from now, that speech is still likely to rank as among the most stirring speeches by any American. Two more examples of speeches by American leaders becoming immortal, thanks to a line within that speech having such acute resonance that the words reverberate even today, decades later: (i) Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, in which the words “I have a dream” were the leitmotif of that extraordinary presentation delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. (ii) The speech delivered by President Reagan on June 12, 1987, from West Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, with the passionately delivered exhortation “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

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