It was Winston Churchill's ability to give a great speech that defined him as a leader. It was Franklin Roosevelt's speeches that defined him as a leader. And John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.
The ability to give a great speech is the most visible and, I argue, one of the most important responsibilities of the individual who leads any nation, and particularly, the most powerful nation on earth. It also acts as a window into the soul of the man or woman behind the speech, communicating far more than the transient issues and positions of the day.
Barack Obama's speech at the Democratic Convention proved that he has what it takes to be a phenomenal President.
Just that one speech.
The relationship between great speakers and great leaders is extremely direct. And it is why so many, approximately 40% of all adults, are indeed afraid to give a speech
When you stand up in front of an audience you ARE naked. The audience CAN see who you really are, how much you DON'T know, how sincere you are, how smart you are and a whole list of other qualities and capacities or deficits and liabilities.
And they can also see greatness.
That is because non-verbal communication, voice tone, body language and how they synch, or don't synch with the words, communicates as much as 93% of what transpires between a speaker and his or her audience.
So, on July 27, 2004, America saw what they needed to see and hear . . . and what they want to see and hear from every other politician.
They saw intelligence
They saw warmth and compassion
They saw sophistication
They saw thoughtfulness
They saw vision
They heard the story of the American dream
But, more importantly . . . and politicians sometimes have a hard time getting this . . .
they FELT a connection to the man beneath the speech.
That is why my clients and audiences, Republican and Democratic, US and foreign, raise their hand when I ask if they were "touched" by Barack Obama's speech. They still remember it, they still get emotional about it. It still has magic.
And it's because Barack Obama does something that few speakers have ever been able to do.
Bad speakers put on a "Performance". Highly memorized and rehearsed with little or none of themselves left in the speech. They speak "At" their audience.
Average speakers do a "Presentation". A very linear download of the facts and arguments. They speak "To" their audience.
Outstanding speakers have a "Conversation" WITH their audiences. FDR, JFK, Reagan, Clinton.
But a few speakers go beyond. Their connection with the audience transcends even the "with-ness" of these great speakers . . . there is a melding, an almost spiritual connection where, for a brief, glorious moment, the speaker and the listener are "one". It is the speaking of a speech from a different place than most politicians or businesspersons know. And, because the connection is so very deep, the message and the messenger seem to transcend partisan politics.
THIS is what Martin Luther King did with his speeches and his audiences. And, in a different way, THIS is what Barack Obama does, and can do.
It is very, very rare.
It takes a knowledge of self and a fearless sort of honesty, on top of extraordinary intellect and external awareness.
So the call for Barack Obama to run is a reflection of this. He IS a "rock star" and his appeal is, and will always be, deep.
And his election would, in so many ways, change and potentially heal the country and our world. Instantly.
In one speech, Barack Obama went from 0 to 60, from almost complete obscurity to almost superstar status, from a non-force on the national scene to a significant force.
Beyond the benefits of seeing a black man in the White House, once the world hears THIS black man speak - even just ONE speech - after 8 years of what they have heard, they will, instantly, regain their respect for our President and our people. He would be like the other modern Presidents that the world loved - JFK and, yes, Bill Clinton - Ambassadors for America, erasing, in one world tour, the distrust and, indeed, hatred that the current occupant of the White House has engendered.
That is also why his name keeps coming up because THAT would help make the world, and our country, safer.
And regarding his lack of experience . . . it should be remembered that there was a rather young Governor with zero national or international experience who made the argument that one could and would surround themselves with people of great experience in those areas. That is always true and would be far more effectively done with the kind of thoughtful, intelligent oversight that a former Editor of the Harvard Law Review could provide.
A person is never "ready" for the most important job on Earth. But, if Barack Obama wants it, the country and the world would be treated to the kind of leadership that had millions huddled around their radios for "Fireside Chats", a million cheering in the Rudolph Wilde Platz in Berlin and hundreds of thousands spellbound on the Capitol Mall. He's on the cover of Time Magazine and in people's thoughts because America and the world are "ready" for that again.