Recently I watched both the Republican and then the Democratic National Conventions and I listened to and studied the speakers and it suddenly hit me as I watched Bill Clinton speaking, just how far the Art of speaking had come since I first started studying this craft back in the early 1970’s. The proper use of the teleprompter has brought elocution to an all new level.
I pulled up the text for Bill Clinton’s speech and then I looked again at the speech Michelle Obama had delivered and studied that cold bare print. I tried reading the text of both speeches and my words sounded empty and lifeless.
I have never been able to read a speech.
When I watched Donald Trump reading a speech he lost all of his magic. Working from just his list of prompt notes I’d call his style “Rantin’ and Ravin’” but he has a powerful impact on his audiences and he proved that what he was doing brought in the votes in the primary elections, so much so that he beat out sixteen other candidates and won the nomination.
I was dazzled by both Bill Clinton and by Michelle Obama. Their mastery o using telepromptors was magnificent.
Donald Trump has a somehow hypnotic impact on his followers. Adolph Hitler had that same sort of hypnotic effect on his listeners too. In his book Mein Kompf, Adolph Hitler devoted a whole chapter to public speaking and handling mass audiences. If you check out old newsreels about how Hitler came into power you can see his mastery of speech with massive audiences. He was a spellbinding speaker. Don’t get me wrong. Hitler was an evil, demonic dictator, but he was a heck of a speaker.
When Trump reads from a script, no matter how good the speech prompters might be, for me, he loses his magic.
So what have I learned from all of this hours of TV I have been exposed to? First, please let me tell you of a little experience I had sitting in a doctor’s office the other day. A heavy set man came in with his wife and sat down across from me in the waiting room. After about a minute his telephone made some noises and then a solemn voice said loudly, “Bullshit Alert!” “Bullshit Alert!”
He took his phone from his pocket, looked at it and determined that is was a nuisance call and erased it.
I sat there mystified for a moment and then I leaned over and said to the man and his wife, “Excuse me. Did your telephone just say “Bullshit Alert! Bullshit Alert!” and his wife got red in the face and apologized. I was reading a book about writing comedy and I showed it to her and said, “Oh, don’t apologize M’am. That was great! It applies to most of the phone calls I have received lately.”
After listening to the first hour of convention speeches I wished, oh how I wished I had that man’s phone available to me. If I had it I would play that message every fifteen minutes or so just to keep things in perspective.