From the Stage: The Bravery of Brotherhood

However you may feel about President Reagan, I think we can all agree we could use more of these sentiments from his 4th of July speech over fifty years ago.

. . . it’s important for us, too, to be brave; not so much the bravery of the battlefield, I mean the bravery of brotherhood.

. . . the things that unite us—America’s past of which we’re so proud, our hopes and aspirations for the future of the world and this much-loved country—these things far outweigh what little divides us. And so tonight we reaffirm that Jew and gentile, we are one nation under God; that black and white, we are one nation indivisible; that Republican and Democrat, we are all Americans. Tonight, with heart and hand, through whatever trial and travail, we pledge ourselves to each other and to the cause of human freedom, the cause that has given light to this land and hope to the world.

My fellow Americans, we’re known around the world as a confident and a happy people. Tonight there’s much to celebrate and many blessings to be grateful for. So while it’s good to talk about serious things, it’s just as important and just as American to have some fun. Now, let’s have some fun—let the celebration begin!

From the Stage: A Possibility to Live Into

As you’ll know if you’ve read The Science of Speaking, Benjamin Zander’s talk at TED 2008 is probably my favorite talk of all time, for a whole variety of reasons. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you do so now, and I’ve embedded it below so you have no excuse not to. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

While there are many lessons for speaking we can take from this talk: his infectious enthusiasm, emotional demo, and the essential concept of “shining eyes,” in this post, I want to highlight his finale, which I’ve reproduced below (though you can—and should!—also watch it above):

So now, I have one last thought, which is that it really makes a difference what we say — the words that come out of our mouth. I learned this from a woman who survived Auschwitz, one of the rare survivors. She went to Auschwitz when she was 15 years old. And her brother was eight, and the parents were lost. And she told me this, she said, “We were in the train going to Auschwitz, and I looked down and saw my brother’s shoes were missing. I said, ‘Why are you so stupid, can’t you keep your things together for goodness’ sake?'” The way an elder sister might speak to a younger brother. Unfortunately, it was the last thing she ever said to him, because she never saw him again. He did not survive. And so when she came out of Auschwitz, she made a vow. She told me this. She said, “I walked out of Auschwitz into life and I made a vow. And the vow was, “I will never say anything that couldn’t stand as the last thing I ever say.” Now, can we do that? No. And we’ll make ourselves wrong and others wrong. But it is a possibility to live into.

In keeping with the philosophy of yesterday’s post, I have nothing to add, except to say that is something that I think we’d do well to consider anytime we’re giving a speech: is this something that could stand as the last thing I ever say? Of course, as Zander notes, we can’t always do that. “But it is a possibility to live into.”