Read an Excerpt
SAY IT LIKE OBAMA AND WIN!
THE POWER OF SPEAKING WITH PURPOSE AND VISION
By SHELLY LEANNE
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2012Shelly Leanne
All rights reserved.
THE SPEECH THAT STARTED IT ALL
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..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.