I love words.
Singularly, or when strung together well, words can be beautiful things.
Of course, words can hurt, and be harsh… but those are not the words and phrases I’m speaking of today.
This topic was brought to mind by the State of the Union Address by President Barack Obama, last evening.
Some of you who know me, and that I am Canadian, might wonder why I would watch it ?
To me, it was an occasion not to watch, but to listen.
To let the phrases crafted by expert wordsmiths, delivered to the Podium of an exceptional speaker, wash over me in waves.
I was raised in a house where, frequently at dinner, my Father would discuss the sometimes subtle differences between words…for example “Gourmet” versus “Gourmand”.
My favourite word is soliloquy. Beautiful to say, and a singular word, representing a monologue, that, when done well, is poignant and well remembered, as this passage from Shakespeare’s Macbeth:
Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
I see thee yet, in form as palpable
As this which now I draw.
I do not distinguish between political parties in my enjoyment… and I think it needs to be said that there is a vast difference between the well-rehearsed talking-point recitations of too many politicians, and the soaring and inspiring words of great orators.
Listening to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words today, (other than the occasional jarring reference to Negros,) has every bit the impact that I’m sure it did in the Sixties.
There have, in my lifetime, been only a few individuals, who could inspire a people, with their words…
Pierre Elliott Trudeau… Nelson Mandela… His Holiness the Dalai Lama… Barbara Jordan… Ronald Reagan… Bill Clinton… Barack Obama…
And some whose gifts have been recorded for our review:
Winston Churchill… Franklin D. Roosevelt… John F. Kennedy… Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
There are, I’m certain, other examples that I am forgetting at this moment, but the aspect of this that saddens me, is that it seems to me that the ones who lead, should be able to communicate beyond a talking-point or sound-byte… but it seems to be increasingly more common for leaders to hammer a series of bulletin points, but be unable to expound or expand upon their views.
Prior to the last Canadian election, there were a series of Kitchen Table debates. The leaders from the major Political Parties were there… but the most spirited discussion, took place before the event, in a series of heated arguments as to whether the Green Party would be invited. The debate itself, was an embarrassing display of mud-slinging, talking over each other, and sound-byte party-line political-handbook readings.
I recently entered into a discussion on Twitter, (which given the 140 character constraint, is a trick,) trying to discern why there were no engaging characters, in Canadian Politics.
I don’t know that we came to any firm conclusions, but we were all saddened by the lack of prospects, and the beige homogenous quality that, regardless of creed or colour, seems to have infected and affected the people that we elect to represent us in Ottawa. None with the quality of assurance and confidence of a natural born leader, and the eloquence and ability to extemporaneously speak, without sounding foolish.
So it was, on a Wednesday night… I sat down and basked in the joy of listening to the words written by an inspired team, that President Obama delivered. Words crafted, and honed… Displaying light and shadow… Humour and sincerity… Hope and optimism.