Say it Like Obama and Win!: The Power of Speaking with Purpose and Vision, Revised and Expanded Third Edition

Say it Like Obama and Win!: The Power of Speaking with Purpose and Vision, Revised and Expanded Third Edition

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by Shel Leanne

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Updated to include speeches on the death of bin Laden, the Arab Spring, and other historic moments on the podium

In speech after speech, Barack Obama fires up enthusiastic supporters with his inspiring vision, rousing rhetoric, and charismatic presence. His outstanding communication skills gave rise to an unprecedented political movement and launched him to


Updated to include speeches on the death of bin Laden, the Arab Spring, and other historic moments on the podium

In speech after speech, Barack Obama fires up enthusiastic supporters with his inspiring vision, rousing rhetoric, and charismatic presence. His outstanding communication skills gave rise to an unprecedented political movement and launched him to the top of the world political stage.

But inspiring and persuading millions isn't simply a product of innate ability. Barack Obama spent time and effort honing skills that have made him so successful. These techniques are vital not only in the political arena, but also for business executives, managers,
and leaders from all walks of life.

This book is about the art of persuasion, the power of presentation, and the most effective methods of communication. From building strong arguments and facing tough issues to inspiring a team or workforce to new levels of innovation and productivity, Say It Like Obama and Win! gives you the tools to instill positive change at every level of your organization by teaching you how to:

  • Make a strong first impression
  • Use body language and voice
  • Establish common ground
  • Gain trust and confi dence
  • Win hearts and minds
  • Drive your points home
  • Convey your vision through imagery and words that resonate
  • Build to a crescendo and leave a lasting impression

Whether you're a manager, an executive, a public speaker, a business owner, or a community leader, Say It Like Obama and Win! provides you with presentation techniques that have inspired and mobilized audiences of every size.

Product Details

McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.10(w) x 5.10(h) x 1.20(d)

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The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Copyright © 2012Shelly Leanne
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-07-180270-3




On a night of the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama stepped onstage and electrified America with his keynote address. His discourse, widely hailed as inspiring and eloquent, provides a valuable snapshot of the excellent communication practices Obama employs as he harnesses the power of speaking with purpose and vision. Through his delivery, we learn how substance and style can work together to increase the effectiveness and impact of communication.

This chapter presents the 2004 keynote address in full. Obama's written words are annotated with references to some of the gestures, tone, and pacing techniques he employed in delivering his career-accelerating address. Let's look at what made the 2004 speech such a success.

2004 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address, July 27, 2004

In the minutes before Barack Obama takes to the stage, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin sings Obama's praises to the Boston audience and to millions of TV viewers. He refers to Barack Obama as a man whose "life celebrates the opportunity of America ... family reflects the hope of an embracing nation ... values rekindle our faith in a new generation...." He praises Obama for having "the extraordinary gift to bring people together of all different backgrounds."

Barack Obama walks onto the stage with a brisk, purposeful, confident gait. He makes immediate visual contact with the audience, clapping his hands along with them—the first signs of connection. He stretches his arm toward the audience in an open-palmed wave and then greets Durbin with a warm embrace that signifies the deep respect of dear friends. With applause still ringing, Obama makes his way to the lectern, planting his feet firmly, shoulders squared. He touches each hand to the lectern, possessing it—a posture of confidence and authority. With chin lifted, he bows ever so slightly to the audience, his gesture of appreciation and gratitude. As the applause continues, Obama folds his hands neatly on the lectern and smiles humbly, seeming to gain strength from the crowd's enthusiasm.

As the applause subsides, Obama thanks Senator Durbin. He takes in a breath and the resonant baritone of his voice rolls as he begins his 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote address:

On behalf of the great state of Illinois, [the crowd applauds, and Obama's eyes sparkle with pride at speaking the name of his home state] crossroads of a nation [pause], Land of Lincoln, let me express my deepest gratitude for the privilege of addressing this convention. [He reaches out to the audience with open hands, conveying his gratitude.]

Tonight is a particular honor for me because, let's face it, my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely. [Obama places his hand over his heart. His intonation underscores the irony of the circumstances.] My father was a foreign student, born and raised in a small village in Kenya. He grew up herding goats, went to school in a tin-roof shack. His father, my grandfather, was a cook, a domestic servant to the British. [He pinches the fingers of his right hand, underscoring his point.]

But my grandfather had larger dreams for his son. [Obama stretches his palms upward, as if measuring the enormity of the dreams.] Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place: America [italics added for emphasis], that shone as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before. [His inflection conveys patriotic pride and generates applause.]

While studying here, my father met my mother. She was born in a town on the other side of the world, in Kansas. [Obama gestures with a hand off in a direction, indicating far, far away. He flashes a bright smile toward the part of the crowd that cheers upon hearing "Kansas" and waves to them in a tender gesture.] Her father worked on oil rigs and farms through most of the Depression. The day after Pearl Harbor my grandfather signed up for duty, joined Patton's army, marched across Europe. Back home, my grandmother raised a baby and [emphasis] went to work on a bomber assembly line. After the war, they studied on the GI Bill, bought a house through FHA, and later moved west, all the way to Hawaii, in search of opportunity.

And they, too, had big dreams for their daughter, a common dream, born of two continents. My parents shared not only an improbable love; they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. [Obama speaks the words with pride and reverence; his hand extended to the audience, signifying shared awe in all the United States has to give.]

They would give me an African name, Barack, or "blessed," [he touches his hand over his heart] believing that in a tolerant [emphasis] America [he pinches the fingers of his right hand] your name is no barrier to success. [Applause.] They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they weren't rich, because in a generous America you don't have to be rich [he raises a palm to the crowd, a little stop sign, as if to halt any notion that richness is a precursor to success] to achieve your potential. [Applause.] They are both passed away now. Yet, I know that, on this night, they look down on me with great pride.

I stand here today, grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents' dreams live on in my two precious daughters. [Sincerity rings in his tone.] I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story [he stretches a hand to the audience, reaching out to them], that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on earth, is my story even possible. [He pinches his fingers with those words, his voice bursting with pride. He pauses as some audience members rise in ovation.]

Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation, not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy. Our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, [he amplifies his voice slightly, speaking the patriotic words with care and curls his right fingers into a C, motioning in front of him as if setting the words on air] that all men are created equal. [Applause.] That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

That [emphasis] is the true genius of America, [applause] a faith in simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles. That we can tuck in our children at night and know they are fed and clothed and safe from harm. That we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door. [Obama knocks a balled fist on an imaginary door.] That we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe. That we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will be counted—at least, most of the time. [He allows his tone to fall flat, disapproving, signaling a wry reference to the disputed 2000 U.S. presidential election results. The audience responds with jeers, sharing his disapproval.]

This year, in this election, we are called to reaffirm our values and our commitments, to hold them against a hard reality, and see how we are measuring up to the legacy of our forebearers and the promise of future generations. And fellow Americans—Democrats, Republicans, Independents—I say to y

Excerpted from SAY IT LIKE OBAMA AND WIN! by SHELLY LEANNE. Copyright © 2012 by Shelly Leanne. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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Meet the Author

Dr. Shel Leanne is President of the Wilshel Corporation, a leadership development company that helps empower young business leaders for success. Participants in her leadership development program hail from around the world--the United States, Europe, East Asia, South Asia, Latin America and Africa. They come from all industries within the Fortune 100, including companies as varied as Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Goldman Sachs, the Vanguard Group, Citibank, Fidelity Investments, General Electric, General Motors, Dell, Bank of America and PepsiCo. Dr. Leanne's insights and work have been cited in national publications such as and The Wall Street Journal.

Prior to launching her company, Shel Leanne gained experience working for McKinsey & Company and for Morgan Stanley in New York and London. She subsequently served as a Full Faculty member at Harvard University from 1997-2001, where she taught courses on social entrepreneurship and organizational design. Since launching her company, Dr. Leanne has given additional talks on succeeding in the business world at Harvard Business School.

A Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Shel Leanne holds a B.A. from Harvard College, and earned Masters and Doctoral degrees from Oxford University.

Shel Leanne enjoys serving on the Board of nonprofits including Beautiful Gate (focused on HIV/AIDS in Africa), Kids with HIV (South Africa) and WorldTeach. She is engaged in the fight against HIV, focusing her work in South Africa and also in Kenya, where she once taught for a summer among the Luo at an all-girls' school, near the rural village where Barack Obama's father was raised.

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