Watching the confluence of celebration these past two days, I have been reminded of the humility and power of the spoken word. Like a lot of speakers, I’ll listen to members of our professional community and marvel at how true word-smiths can bring language alive. Smugly, I place myself on the fringes of that talented group, knowing that, once in awhile, I’ll strike a resonant chord with the people who hear me speak.
That smug bubble was been shattered and repaired again, all within a 24 hour span of time. With twilight settling in over the mountains on the evening of January 19th, in the parking lot of my fitness club, I sat mesmerized by the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., floating forward from 45 years ago, speaking at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. How he could make words soar and pitch, flowing like a brook over rough branches and smooth stones. From the “Curvaceous slopes of California” to “Lookout Mountain” and beyond, his words still bear their message of timeless truth in the generations beyond.
Feeling appropriately humbled, I settled in the following day to watch Barack Obama’s inauguration speech. No, it wasn’t a shadow of King’s words, but then again, no amount of diction or floridity could re-capture that sweltering moment in August of 1963. What would you have said on those steps, to honor the past and hold forth the promise of the future?
As speakers, we have a high standard to bear, and it can be easy at times to treat our place in the world as “just another job”. With the “perks” of late-night travel, strange hotel rooms and stranger buffet tables, this work can take on a surreal sense of normalcy. As if it’s perfectly normal to stand up in front of a group of strangers and bare our souls about what we’re most passionate about personally and professionally. That’s really what President Obama and Dr. King did, both recently and two generations ago. Their world-view isn’t that much different from ours, and their commitment to their audience and a mission are models of what speaking can and should be.
Submitted by Mike Faber -Professional Member