Read an Excerpt
From the Heart
While preparing to give a major presidential address to a television audience of millions, a staff member asked me what goes through my mind at such a time. With the audience sitting comfortably in their homes watching their television sets, I sit alone in my office looking into the dark lens of a camera. Just how do I connect with my audience?
I'll let you in on a little secret that dates back over fifty years to my first stint at a microphone. I was broadcasting sports for WHO Radio in Des Moines, Iowa. I had always dreamed of being a radio broadcaster, but I admit I was quite nervous the first time I sat alone in that small, windowless broadcasting room in front of a live microphone. How could I connect with all those people listening to the radio, I wondered? How could I converse with them in a natural way?
After a couple of stumbles and awkward silences it came to me. Many of the people listening were friends and acquaintances of mine. I wasn't talking to a group of faceless, unknown listeners. I could be talking over the radio to them the same way I would if we were face-to-face. I thought of the fellows in the local barber shop. I looked forward to my visit with them every two weeks when we'd swap jokes, talk sports, and tell stories while my hair was being cut. And I remembered that they always had the radio on and listened to just about every show that was broadcast.
So, sitting in that solitary booth, I started talking to the fellows in the barber shop the same way I did during bur regular get-togethers.
I learned then the fundamental rule of public speaking, whether on the radio, on television, or to a livecrowd: Talk to your audience, not over their heads or through them. Don't try to talk in a special language of broadcasting or even politics, just use normal everyday words.
Since those early days on radio, I have given more speeches than I ever dreamed. But I have never lost that vision of the fellows in the barber shop sitting around and listening to the radio. I've given enough speeches to practically fill the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California and I am delighted that they have been used to assemble this book. I would like to convey my deep personal thanks to Fred Ryan and the team he put together to publish this book. I'm very pleased that it is a non-profit venture with all royalties going to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation.
I'm not sure when I was first dubbed "The Great Communicator," but I have always been honored by that title. If I have in any way earned it, I hope it is because I have always tried to speak from the heart to you, the American people. God bless you for the privilege of allowing me to do so.