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Michael Seitzman Headshot

Speeches Do Matter

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Hillary said she found her voice in New Hampshire because she cried in public. Her audience applauded. But now it seems to the senator that having a voice is irrelevant because somehow having a voice is now the subject of ridicule in the new Clinton campaign.

The Clintons seem to have nothing left to add to the national conversation other than to tell us that the conversation itself is beneath them. It's ironic for so many reasons, not the least of which being that Bill Clinton himself has been known as much for his stunning ability to inspire an audience and an electorate as he is known for his other considerable political skills. Yet now the ability of a leader to communicate with those he or she intends to lead is simply childish.

First of all, don't the Clintons realize that when they're both saying the exact same thing (especially when that thing is so ludicrous) that it puts us in the room with their handlers and so-called experts. We're suddenly aware of the "strategy" and we stop being aware of the candidate and the woman. So much for finding her own voice.

Second, there is the assertion that speechmaking is irrelevant. I'm wondering where this country would be without great oratory, without great communicators, without those who have been able to articulate a vision and move a nation.

Where would we be without Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech? Is there a single piece of oratory that defined a moment more than that speech did for the civil rights movement? That speech is a cry for freedom and equality that changed the world. Yes, the marches and the political wrangling with various presidents (yes, including Johnson) mattered. But, it was that speech which encapsulated the simple humanity that was at stake. That speech galvanized a movement, electrified a nation, and embarrassed a government into action.

What about Robert Kennedy's, "Some men see things as they are and ask, 'Why?' I dream of things that never were and ask, 'Why not?"

Or JFK's, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

Churchill's, "Never in the history of mankind have so many owed so much to so few."

Roosevelt's, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

Lincoln's, "Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it."

And, now we have Senator Clinton's, "Talk is cheap." Boy, she really knows how a move a nation.

We've had seven years of bully politics and of awkward and embarrassing communication by our president. We've had seven years of lying, condescension, parsing words and a staggering inability to use language and authenticity to call a nation to action. Now we finally have a candidate in Barack Obama who uses the word "We" while others use "I." He empowers us with words and the authentic emotion behind them and people are rushing into the tent to drink that magic water.

Candor, inclusiveness, poetry, and inspiration. We don't only deserve those things, we long for them. We want to be led and we want to be lifted and anyone who doesn't understand that simply doesn't understand us.