Thursday, September 11, 2008

You Don't Think She Wrote It, Do You?

In 1967, I was a winner in the Spokane area American Legion Oratorical Contest. I still remember the thesis statement of my seven-minute speech, which was based on a quote by Thomas Jefferson: “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

I spent weeks writing the speech, and untold hours repeating it in front of mirrors, before I nervously presented it to my high school debate class. The audience picked it apart. I rewrote parts of it, memorized the changes, and presented it again. By the time the contest rolled around, I could say it in my sleep. My biggest challenge was making the speech sound off-the-cuff, as though I was making impromptu remarks. When I stepped off the stage, I felt an enormous sense of triumph. Win or lose, I’d tackled a daunting task and pulled it off. Later, I would become a debate coach and talk other young people into torturing themselves in a similar fashion.

I know a thing or two about speech making. So after Sarah Palin’s triumphant performance at the Republican National Convention, it took me a few days to realize why some people were so impressed: they thought she wrote the speech!

Trust me, she didn’t.

Didn’t you hear the echoes? That speech was constructed by the same speech writers who have put the words into George Bush’s mouth for the past eight years and who are now the handlers for John McCain. Those clever little quips—the lipstick, the “actual responsibility”? Made by committee. (Barack Obama, by contrast, writes his own speeches, long hand, on yellow legal pads.)

As for delivery, I could have done it in a few days, too, if they’d had Teleprompters back then (or allowed them to be used in oratorical contests).

I’m not saying Sarah Palin didn’t do a bang-up job of presenting the speech. She’s a good little actress and delivered her lines well. And nature—in the form of Hurricane Gustav—gave her an extra day to practice.

But that doesn’t mean she’s qualified to be President—not even close.

Hitler made great speeches, too.

When we allow ourselves to be moved by political rhetoric, it’s important to consider the source.

2 comments:

idna said...

Are you suggesting that
obama doesn't have his speeches written for him?

And as far as the teleprompter, because of the applause, the prompter moved ahead faster than she could speak, so Palin had to "wing" it for a large part of the speech. I think she did a bang up job!

Citizen Jane said...

As a matter of fact, people who've traveled with Obama, even recently, say he writes out the draft of his speeches on yellow legal pads. He's always scribbling. He's an amazing writer.

I never said Palin wasn't a good speaker. I, too, think she did a "bang up job" of delivering the speech at the convention. She's obviously a quick study, because she delivered her lines very well in the debate against Biden. As a speaker, she's very likable.

I'd vote for her in a minute--for PTA president if our kids went to the same school. Happily, I don't have to belabor the reasons why she'd be a laughable choice for President, though. Lots of other people are doing that for me.