I can say that both speeches, from a technical perspective, were excellent. The way the speeches were written combined metaphor, allusion, parallelism, straw-men, hyperboles, and challenges as a textbook operation on how to write a persuasive moving piece of work. As I followed along with the transcripts, I was very impressed with the way each thought was nicely counterbalanced, each metaphor was extended in an artistic manner, and each subtle reference to challenge and opposition was phrased in a positive light. And yet, for some reason, I found the speeches boring. On paper, they were solid, but listening to the audio didn't really do anything to inspire me. True, it's no longer the 1960s, but both men simply sounded like men reading. They read loudly, with energy and enthusiasm, but they were still reading...and for some reason that didn't seem inspiring.
I noticed the same thing was true for Steve Jobs. I have found him very inspirational when speaking in front of a group of Apple enthusiasts launching the iPad, but when I watched his Stanford Address...he reverted to a man reading. Randy Pausch did the same thing. And Bill Gates. And Opera. These are brilliant, successful people...so why does the inspiration vanish?
What must be true, at least for me, is that reading was at one time something that could inspire people. Humans enjoyed a well constructed phrase and appreciated it no matter the method. Now, though, with media, texting, conversations, and other communication tools, it's only the live interaction that speaks to us. That could explain the modern hesitance to use proper grammar in texting, or why papers seem insufferable to write, or why novels aren't really as popular as they once were. People are consuming more media than ever, but it's conversational media and articles, rather than textual media like novels and speeches. Inspiration, then, it not just ideas, nor content, nor construction, nor delivery. It's about meeting the audience where they are. Perhaps we're on the brink of making "reading speeches" extinct and shifting to oratory skills as a conversation. What do you think?
Check out the Speeches: Inspired or Tired?
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