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What Makes A Great Political Speech?  
User currently offlineBaroque From Australia, joined Apr 2006, 15380 posts, RR: 59
Posted (3 years 9 months 4 weeks 2 hours ago) and read 2234 times:

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/latenightlive/stories/2010/3048250.htm
What makes a great political speech?

There's not much that political commentators agree on but here's one point on which they're united: very few modern day politicians know how to give a great speech. Extend the field to local politics, or to any public ceremony and you'll find the same problem where people drone on for hours, without ever really saying anything. Dennis Glover, former Labor speechwriter, thinks it's vital for our democracy that our politicians learn how to speak properly.

Dennis Glover
Former Labor speechwriter
Publications

Title: The Art of Great Speeches
Author: Dennis Glover
Publisher: Cambridge in December 2010


No transcript so you need to listen to the Podcast at that link.

Especially interesting is the complex set of tricks that Palin employs. He suggests that although Palin complains of rhetoric from Obama, she is into it in spades. Also analysed are Clinton with a note that with one speech the biggest cheer was for the line "In conclusion".

One of those strange chats that turns out to be utterly fascinating.

Also covers Kennedy and Churchill, not to mention Adolf.

I suspect the book must be well worth a read to see the tricks laid out in black and white.

24 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlinecpd From Australia, joined Jun 2008, 4879 posts, RR: 38
Reply 1, posted (3 years 9 months 4 weeks 2 hours ago) and read 2223 times:

To the point - with simple language and terms that the "common people" can understand.

I know that's a terrible term - but that's the way politicians see it.

The other thing is to get in as many negative one liners against the opponents as possible. Short and sharp.

When talking about policies, you have to keep it simple - otherwise people will tune out. And most of all, keep the media on side. Good stories in the media helps greatly.

It also seems to be helpful to learn how to make core and non core promises, the core ones being real, the others being false. And never be above a good scare campaign.

If your opponent had a weak point them make them talk about it as often as possible. The more you force that, the more chance that they will slip up and then you go in for the kill.

It's a vicious game.

[Edited 2010-10-26 23:25:28]

User currently offlineBaroque From Australia, joined Apr 2006, 15380 posts, RR: 59
Reply 2, posted (3 years 9 months 4 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 2211 times:

Quoting cpd (Reply 1):
To the point - with simple language and terms that the "common people" can understand.

I know that's a terrible term - but that's the way politicians see it.

Yep but it interesting that someone who make such a play as being a simple common person has her speeches just as prepared as the "elitist" Obama.

Quoting cpd (Reply 1):
It also seems to be helpful to learn how to make core and non core promises, the core ones being real, the others being false.

And the perpetrator of that is totally unabashed. Abbott seems to be retracting some of his statements within about 3 hours. Who knows how he would go in the longer run re promises - not well one would suppose.

Pity LNL does not have transcripts.


User currently offlineltbewr From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 13070 posts, RR: 12
Reply 3, posted (3 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 20 hours ago) and read 2185 times:

The decline of the quality of political speeches is more about that people have much shorter attention spans and don't have the time to see such speeches. We can now read them online in a fraction of the time without the interruption of applause or pauses for affect. There is the need to be provocative, to make sure you make a point that will be a 10-20 second 'sound bite' on the evening news. Then you have how so many have turned off to political speeches due to a well established belief that they are full of lies and phony caring.

User currently offlineQuokka From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (3 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 2172 times:

Quoting ltbewr (Reply 3):
so many have turned off to political speeches due to a well established belief that they are full of lies and phony caring.


This is very true. The other problem is that none of the major parties have any real ideas that separate them in people's minds. Twiddledee and Twiddledum, the A Team versus the B Team. How exciting.

The aim is no longer to motivate people except perhaps to vote once every few years. They have no grand causes to fight. No changes to demand. It is pretty difficult to make an inspiring, moving speech when all you want to do is say vote for Jane because Joe is worse.


User currently offlinecomorin From United States of America, joined May 2005, 4896 posts, RR: 16
Reply 5, posted (3 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 2160 times:

Baroque. Thanks as usual for starting an intelligent topic and a great link. I grew up in India and Nehru electrified and inspired us.

Quokka, ltbewr: Good points. Google and the Internets have made our attention (eye balls) a commodity. Great speeches become sound bytes, it's just too costly to make a lengthy "Friend, Romans and Countrymen" type of speech anymore.


User currently offlineEasternSon From United States of America, joined Jun 2006, 668 posts, RR: 1
Reply 6, posted (3 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 2158 times:

Believe it or not, tempo and rhythm have a lot to do with how we hear and interpret speeches given by authority figures.

I had several very good public speaking teachers and professors throughout my schooling. One of them actually played famous speeches with a metronome ticking away in front of the classroom. It was amazing to see how many were given in almost perfect 4-4 time.



"The only people for me are the mad ones...." Jack Kerouac
User currently offlinecomorin From United States of America, joined May 2005, 4896 posts, RR: 16
Reply 7, posted (3 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 2147 times:

Quoting EasternSon (Reply 6):
Believe it or not, tempo and rhythm have a lot to do with how we hear and interpret speeches given by authority figures.

I had several very good public speaking teachers and professors throughout my schooling. One of them actually played famous speeches with a metronome ticking away in front of the classroom. It was amazing to see how many were given in almost perfect 4-4 time.

Thanks for the insight! In school, our prep for public speaking was reciting great poems for rhythm ( "I remember, I remember" or "Half a league, half a league, half a league onward") This helped us read through our prepared speeches. Unfortunately, I started reading Hemingway and Kerouac and others and completely lost it...  


User currently offlineDocLightning From United States of America, joined Nov 2005, 19494 posts, RR: 58
Reply 8, posted (3 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 2123 times:

You know who was the master at it?

Adolf Hitler.

The man wasn't good for much else, but oh man could he speak! Rhythm, tempo, correct buzz words, yelling at the right time, whispering at the right time. He was to public speaking what Beethoven was to music.

Please don't think that I'm comparing other good speakers (like Abe Lincoln) to Adolf Hitler. I'm just pointing out that the man was THE master of public political speaking.


User currently offlineMadameConcorde From San Marino, joined Feb 2007, 10893 posts, RR: 37
Reply 9, posted (3 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 2119 times:

My two most favourite presidents ever... both very powerful - in the same time period....
They talked in the name of peace and prosperity. They both hypnotized the crowds.


This man had it. He did not need a teleprompter. A fantastic speaker he was!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hH6nQhss4Yc

JFK in Berlin

 


and so was he!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k37_Xo6c5XM&feature=related

Charles de Gaulle in Montreal


 

RIP CdG and JFK



There was a better way to fly it was called Concorde
User currently offlineltbewr From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 13070 posts, RR: 12
Reply 10, posted (3 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 2098 times:

Some other common factors that makes a 'great' political speech is it has to be positive or inspirational, even if about a very serious subject. Whether it be dealing with death, a major crises, a war, a mega-disaster, the listener needs to be assured that someone knows their fears, is dealing with it responsibly.

User currently offlineBaroque From Australia, joined Apr 2006, 15380 posts, RR: 59
Reply 11, posted (3 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 2095 times:

Quoting ltbewr (Reply 10):
Some other common factors that makes a 'great' political speech is it has to be positive or inspirational, even if about a very serious subject.

And the odd thing is how such disparate styles as those of Obama and Palin can both appeal but to very different audiences. It would be interesting to know how much of the Palin style is specifically designed for her audience. I had in my ignorance just assumed she had no style at all, but it seems she has one and that her style is reducible to a specific suite of "tricks".


User currently offlinecpd From Australia, joined Jun 2008, 4879 posts, RR: 38
Reply 12, posted (3 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 2089 times:

Quoting ltbewr (Reply 10):
Some other common factors that makes a 'great' political speech is it has to be positive or inspirational, even if about a very serious subject.

Most of the ones I've seen recently have been extremely negative, even angry political speeches. But they've had the desired effect.

I think Ms. Palin has formed a specific style, much like Tony Abbott which is aimed at a particular target audience of ultra-conservative voters. I'd also lump Ms Palin in with the angry Hansonite (aka Pauline Hanson) style of public speaking. All three have similar methods and ways of getting their message across. All three play to similar demographics as well.

Mrs Thatcher had a very particular speaking style as well:

http://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/104431

This is fairly typical.


User currently offlineMDShady From United States of America, joined Jan 2010, 74 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (3 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 2086 times:

Quoting cpd (Reply 1):

To the point - with simple language and terms that the "common people" can understand.

I know that's a terrible term - but that's the way politicians see it.

Well it's not really a terrible way to put it. In fact, barring the good ol personal running mate attack, it is the most effective way to sway your voters I would think.

Language is an incredibly complex subject where for the most part it is rare that we say what we mean or interpret discussion as solely intended. In my experience, it would be prudent to say that the only the most basic statements of action (I did this, I want this, et cetera) can be understood with absolute accuracy, and even these honest declarations contain a risk of deceit that should be taken into account. Furthermore, if we were to conduct a rational examination of a more complicated syntax by adhering to the laws of dictionary meaning, then we would run a strong probability of disclosing a false elucidation that was never intended in the first place.

So in this regard, it makes sense to define your message in simpleton's terms. The clearer the message, the better the understanding. The better the understanding, the more powerful your message will be. The more powerful your message, the more effective it will be in gaining the the public's belief in your leadership.


User currently offlinecpd From Australia, joined Jun 2008, 4879 posts, RR: 38
Reply 14, posted (3 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 2076 times:

Quoting MDShady (Reply 13):
So in this regard, it makes sense to define your message in simpleton's terms. The clearer the message, the better the understanding. The better the understanding, the more powerful your message will be. The more powerful your message, the more effective it will be in gaining the the public's belief in your leadership.

Unfortunately, simplifying the message too much can also mean diluting the real substance - and it can also lead to lowest common denominator politics too - like in our recent election where the over-riding theme was "boat-people", despite the fact that in reality, boat-people were a pretty minor issue in the major scheme of things.

The economy and boat-people were massively over-played with megaphone style public speaking. Now, we got through the recession in Australia quite unscathed compaired with the horrors of the rest of the world, and immigration is falling too - according to the figures. Not that you'd have known from the scare campaign adverts and speeches during the election.

There was an over-abundance of scare tactics, and a lack of real policies. And if someone did propose long-term policies, it was immediately shouted-down as wasteful spending. So what do you do? Damned if you do, damned if you don't.


But also, some people had a very simple idea of voting too - like for instance one comment from an "undecided voter" who said when interviewed:

"Oh, I'm don't know about the issues or who to vote for, but I'll read the newspapers to understand the issues and then make up my mind"

I was absolutely lost for words when I heard that! If you've read the major newspapers in Australia, you'll know that its incredibly hard to find unbiased reporting. One newspaper is openly pushing for the destruction of a major political party, while the others aren't much better. Hence why I was so horrified.


User currently offlineMDShady From United States of America, joined Jan 2010, 74 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (3 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 2075 times:

Quoting DocLightning (Reply 8):
You know who was the master at it?

Adolf Hitler.

The man wasn't good for much else, but oh man could he speak! Rhythm, tempo, correct buzz words, yelling at the right time, whispering at the right time. He was to public speaking what Beethoven was to music.

Please don't think that I'm comparing other good speakers (like Abe Lincoln) to Adolf Hitler. I'm just pointing out that the man was THE master of public political speaking.
Quoting DocLightning (Reply 8):

Hitler was successful in exploiting peoples hope. Any of us would be a good leader when the people we lead are in absolute poverty.

Tis true he was a great speaker and just as well he had the master, Joseph Goebbels behind the reigns. Perhaps more important than that is the state of Germany from when Hitler was appointed Chancellor all the way to the events leading to his supposed suicide. Germany was crippled from the fallout of WWI and were desparate for someone, anyone, to lead them out of it. His promises did become truth for a short period of time. Germany's economic thrust, fueled by war became thriving and prosperous just as he had said. The downfall however is that it was forcefully hyper-realized and thus destined to fail. In short he was in the right place at the right time..

A note on Abe, he was hated during his tenure, but as I see it he made strives to benefit mankind which I haven't seen since.


User currently offlineMDShady From United States of America, joined Jan 2010, 74 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (3 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 2074 times:

Quoting cpd (Reply 14):
Unfortunately, simplifying the message too much can also mean diluting the real substance - and it can also lead to lowest common denominator politics too - like in our recent election where the over-riding theme was "boat-people", despite the fact that in reality, boat-people were a pretty minor issue in the major scheme of things.

The economy and boat-people were massively over-played with megaphone style public speaking. Now, we got through the recession in Australia quite unscathed compaired with the horrors of the rest of the world, and immigration is falling too - according to the figures. Not that you'd have known from the scare campaign adverts and speeches during the election.

There was an over-abundance of scare tactics, and a lack of real policies. And if someone did propose long-term policies, it was immediately shouted-down as wasteful spending. So what do you do? Damned if you do, damned if you don't.


But also, some people had a very simple idea of voting too - like for instance one comment from an "undecided voter" who said when interviewed:

"Oh, I'm don't know about the issues or who to vote for, but I'll read the newspapers to understand the issues and then make up my mind"

I was absolutely lost for words when I heard that! If you've read the major newspapers in Australia, you'll know that its incredibly hard to find unbiased reporting. One newspaper is openly pushing for the destruction of a major political party, while the others aren't much better. Hence why I was so horrified.

You've pretty much described the problem with language in my post (the part you did not quote). As you've reinterated, people want to describe issues and take sides as if they are black and white, good and evil. The problem with that is that they are anything but. In the political arena there seems to be no escape from this discourse. You are either for it, or against it.


User currently offlineBaroque From Australia, joined Apr 2006, 15380 posts, RR: 59
Reply 17, posted (3 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 2065 times:

Quoting cpd (Reply 12):
Mrs Thatcher had a very particular speaking style as well:

http://www.margaretthatcher.org/docu...04431

Some years ago there was a fascinating analysis of an awful interview (awful for Day) that Robin Day did with her at the election campaign just after the Falklands war. Day appeared to be very rude with interrupting her. But the analysis showed that she deliberately mislead him into thinking she was coming to the end of her monologue - from syntax, falling cadence and something else that I forget. Apparently if an interviewer leaves a blank while he or she makes sure the person being interviewed is finished, it appears very disjointed and incompetent. So an expert interviewer and R Day was among the best, is ready to come in "seamlessly".

But what happened with La Thatch was she rose again and he appeared to be trying to interrupt which after the second or third time seemed very rude. The guy presenting the program thought that the tactic was deliberate and had been learned. Next day the headlines in the papers were all about how rude Robin Day was.

Quite clever, or perhaps fiendishly clever.

Phrase repetition has me a bit foxed. Whoever thinks that works? I will just have to move forward to find out and avoid a great big new tax while doing so.


User currently offlinekiwiinoz From New Zealand, joined Oct 2005, 2165 posts, RR: 5
Reply 18, posted (3 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 2062 times:

A speechwriter like this guy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDHwEi_utbA

Seriousely though:

This guy, Prime Minister David Lange is very famous, (in NZ) for this speech. He was very famous for his speeches. This was given as his administration banned nuclear powered or armed ships to NZ, (a ban that still stands, although probably not for much longer):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OeHTziiFVx0


User currently offlinemirrodie From United States of America, joined Apr 2000, 7443 posts, RR: 62
Reply 19, posted (3 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 2060 times:
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Quoting Baroque (Thread starter):
What makes a great political speech?

"A teleprompter"

signed,

Barack Obama.



In all seriousness, the content of the speech can only be strengthened by the fortitude of the followup.



Forum moderator 2001-2010; He's a pedantic, pontificating, pretentious bastard, a belligerent old fart, a worthless st
User currently offlinecpd From Australia, joined Jun 2008, 4879 posts, RR: 38
Reply 20, posted (3 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 2057 times:

Quoting Baroque (Reply 17):
Quite clever, or perhaps fiendishly clever.

She was the absolute master of rhetoric too. Sharp as a tack as well.

Quoting Baroness Thatcher:
If our people feel that they are part of a great nation and they are prepared to will the means to keep it great, a great nation we shall be, and shall remain. So, what can stop us from achieving this? What then stands in our way? The prospect of another winter of discontent? I suppose it might.

But I prefer to believe that certain lessons have been learnt from experience, that we are coming, slowly, painfully, to an autumn of understanding. And I hope that it will be followed by a winter of common sense. If it is not, we shall not be—diverted from our course.

To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the “U” turn, I have only one thing to say. “You turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning.” I say that not only to you but to our friends overseas and also to those who are not our friends.

That's probably the classic Thatcher style - very proper, almost pompous style of speech. And that last sentence there has very resolute meaning - the 'Iron Lady' was absolutely NOT for turning. And you read those speeches, they are beautiful speeches, very well written with elegant phrases. "Autumn of understanding" - not a common term, but it fits the occasion well.

She could do fire and brimstone too:

http://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/102939

Another of the famous speeches. Filled with some important warnings, but also a great deal of overblown bluster at the same time.

I think Paul Keating, the towering former Australian PM was also a master of public speaking, and a master of political attacks. He was second to none for inflicting vicious vitriol on opponents, including leaders of other countries. And he once described the Senate as "unrepresentative swill", while the opposition got far worse insults thrown at them. And the other thing about Keating, he's hardly rattled, even by the most skilled of interviewers (thinking Kerry Jones, ABC's 7.30 report) trying to trip him up in details. He has seemingly photographic memory recall ability, able to rattle off fine details of economics and numbers with little bother, and no pauses.

[Edited 2010-10-27 21:31:00]

[Edited 2010-10-27 21:36:48]

User currently offlineBaroque From Australia, joined Apr 2006, 15380 posts, RR: 59
Reply 21, posted (3 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 2050 times:

Quoting kiwiinoz (Reply 18):
This guy, Prime Minister David Lange is very famous, (in NZ) for this speech.

Ah a truly admirable person.

Quoting mirrodie (Reply 19):
Quoting Baroque (Thread starter):
What makes a great political speech?

"A teleprompter"

signed,

Barack Obama.

In one part post you sum up all that is bad about modern TV grab oriented politics and what is worst about US politics too.

And it is most astonishing to those who observe trends in the US that the one-liner is the modal method of expression in a country* where the ability of school children to speak and argue a complex case is far above that in most countries.

Why does it end up as the all too obvious - and usually untrue - one liner, or in this case, a part liner? Asked with all sincerity.

BTW, how does BHO get his teleprompter to anticipate so well the answers to what appear to be spontaneous audience questions? Oh, I know, they are all programmed too. Sigh.

*Of course Dxing is excluded from this comment. He prefers the one chapter method.   


User currently offlinemirrodie From United States of America, joined Apr 2000, 7443 posts, RR: 62
Reply 22, posted (3 years 9 months 3 weeks 5 days 6 hours ago) and read 2013 times:
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Quoting Baroque (Reply 21):
the one-liner is the modal method of expression in a country* where the ability of school children to speak and argue a complex case is far above that in most countries.

Well in my case, the one liner was this tired man's answer last evening.

Quoting Baroque (Reply 21):
Why does it end up as the all too obvious - and usually untrue - one liner, or in this case, a part liner? Asked with all sincerity.

See above.

Quoting Baroque (Reply 21):
Oh, I know, they are all programmed too

I do feel some questions are plants. yes, I absolutely do.

But this wasn't a one-liner joke when I said, "

Quoting mirrodie (Reply 19):
In all seriousness, the content of the speech can only be strengthened by the fortitude of the followup.

Under Bush, American's suffered from a leader who could never give a good speech (in terms of delivery.) He always looked the fool.

Watching Obama campaign and his speeches evolve, when he fought to become president, his speeches were assertive, connected and the goal of attaining the Presidency meant follow up.

Now in office, I've watched his speeches connect less and less. He still annunciates well and is a better speaker than Bush. But what's being going on in the country does not resonate well with his speeches. Thus I fell they weaken his strength in speeches.



Forum moderator 2001-2010; He's a pedantic, pontificating, pretentious bastard, a belligerent old fart, a worthless st
User currently offlinemirrodie From United States of America, joined Apr 2000, 7443 posts, RR: 62
Reply 23, posted (3 years 9 months 3 weeks 5 days 6 hours ago) and read 2011 times:
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Just to further add....


OK, so Obama made some comment recently about "sitting in the back," in a recent speech. It drew obvious criticism.

So under that type of fire, with each speech he gives he becomes less credible, and his speeches thus less powerful and effective.

I think if he continued to be assertive and serious, while people are hurting in these times, he's connect more and make better speeches.



Making sense? Im still tired.



Forum moderator 2001-2010; He's a pedantic, pontificating, pretentious bastard, a belligerent old fart, a worthless st
User currently offlineaerorobnz From Rwanda, joined Feb 2001, 7184 posts, RR: 13
Reply 24, posted (3 years 9 months 3 weeks 5 days 5 hours ago) and read 1996 times:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKftRlzh2RM

Pretty much sums up my feelings nicely.


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