Commanding through fear is bound to leave you fearful.

Commanding through power will see a power rise up against you.

Commanding through respect will always cause some to hate you.

Command through control of the language of others, and then you have true command.

These days, it is despicably common for one to see people in power having no command of English and no conception of public speaking. We have politicians who mutter great decisions, lightly address serious topics, and use neutral and forceless addresses to explain why they won't take a stand on issues.

Where have the Theodore Roosevelts and Winston Churchills of the world gone? The days of standing up at a podium in front of a mellow crowd and having them rioting by the end of your fluid and powerful dictation? When a small, seemingly impotent man could stir up passion with such vigour and raucous untapped fervour that one would be surprised they hadn't already put their foot through the wall?

Too often, the source of manliness stems from simulacrums and other such visual stimuli. We determine the value of an individual based on size, based on appearance, stature, clothing- hair even. To be brutally honest, I'd prefer a raving, unwashed lunatic to the majority of politicians today. At least he wouldn't require the use of a façade to present himself in public.

All I'm asking is that you simply listen to a politician before you look at them.

Because makeup and Gucci suits shouldn't govern the country- the wizened old man at the other end of the radio should, when his words so enthral you that you really care about what he has to say.

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Comment by Will on January 28, 2010 at 6:40am
I guess it depends on what you want in a speaker. You want to feel something? That's fine if it's a motivational speaker. From a politician, I want specific policy proposals. And I'd rather read them. It's less annoying to be lied to in print. :o
Comment by Sir Lancelot on January 26, 2010 at 7:38am
The fact that the most powerful orator I've heard lately is a certifiable nutter like Ted Nugent speaks volumes.
Comment by Matthew Calvey on January 25, 2010 at 1:55pm
With regards to Brett, President Obama is a good SPEAKER, but a damnably middling orator, which I gather to be the point of this essay. A typical speech by our President is chock full of cliches, generalizations and straw-man arguments, mixed in with endless amounts of deliberate pausing and reflections on the personal grandeur of the speaker. If you go back and read one of the President's speeches, they fail to inspire, without the audio-visual accompaniments. The great orators inspire through their speech and the words within. Read the President's "Jeremiah Wright" speech, hailed at the time as a landmark discourse on race-relations, and then immediately go read Patrick Henry's "Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death" speech. The comparison is unflattering to our current speech-maker-in-chief.
Comment by Micah on January 23, 2010 at 8:15pm
I doubt much has changed. We just have more access to information now, so we are better able to analyze whether what a politician said in once speech is consistent with what he's done.

Looks have always been an important issue for public speakers. I don't remember who exactly it was, but one of the early, famous military leaders hid the fact that he wore glasses from his soldiers, to protect their opinions of him. Now that speeches are broadcast over television as well as radio, they're just important for every speech, as opposed to only live ones. Ever since Nixon debated Kennedy have politicians been using looks to their advantage for garnishing votes.
Comment by Brett McKay on January 21, 2010 at 12:48am
I have to say, regardless of how you feel about his politics, President Obama is a dang good orator. Sure, the argument could be made that sometimes his words lack substance, but they are definitely capable of whipping people into a frenzy. At least on the campaign trail. He's been more reserved of late.
Comment by James Wolfe on January 20, 2010 at 11:22pm
@Will: I admit, I was a little generous with my praising of speech, but I simply find that it is undervalued.

@ Gregory: That's exactly the problem- the appearance of politicians has become the substitute for their character and values. I'm not saying that the change I'm advocating will ever be witnessed, and that is most likely predicated on the fact that the average attention span is the size of a flea which has just undergone a complete limb removal surgery.
Comment by Will on January 20, 2010 at 6:59pm
I think I'd rather command through respect, than by rhetoric.
Comment by Native Son on January 20, 2010 at 2:43pm
When will I learn to completely proofread? That last bit should read 'physically unprepossesing individuals'
Comment by Native Son on January 20, 2010 at 9:31am
Interesting. TR lived in a world where it was the personal magnetism as well as the rhetoric skill of the speaker that mattered. Churchill started out in that era, but successfully segued into the radio era where the content and verbal delivery of the speaker mattered most. The modern observer has been media trained to expect short speeches by attractive persons. Can you think of any modern person who'd willingly spend an entire day watching and listening to a substantive debate conducted by two such physically unpreposseing individuals as Lincoln and Douglas?

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