The Gift of the Gap

I kind of miss President Obama. His eloquence. I’m reading a book “The gift of the Gap – how eloquence works” by David Crystal.

image
Danny Yung’s Tian tian xiang shang 天天向上 exhibition at Raffles City, Singapore. Photo by me. Phrase means daily self improvement. Always looking up.

Another great book which I will review soon is “Talk like Ted” by Carmine Gallo; on the art of Storytelling.

Back to Crystal’s book. He describes Structure as essential to a good speech, using strings of pearls to connect ideas.

Obama’s victory speech in 2008 had an effective 41 words and 4 word punchline.

If there is anyone out there
Who still doubts
         That America is a place
          Where all things are possible
Who still wonders
          If the dream if our founders is alive in our time
Who still questions the power of our democracy,
Tonight is your answer.

Parallelism with “who still”. Chunking works with your telephone number and with speech.

Shakespeare invented it first. (All literature students know its called poetry. You have it in most cultures. Including Chinese and Japanese.)

Power of threes and fours.

Churchill used it.

I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.
In war: resolution
In defeat: defiance
In victory: magnanimity
In peace: goodwill

More than four, opines Crystal, the sequence loses its unity. And rhyme, I add.

Order, order, order
Before and after

Variation
☆Campaign, problem, challenges, new dawn
☆From the general and abstract, to the particular and concrete.
☆Invite the audience by repeating a catch-phrase; several times. Eg Yes, we can.
☆Appeal for action

This is our chance to answer that call.
  This is our moment
   This is our time

To put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids
To restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace
To reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth

    That out of many, we are one
     That while we breathe, we hope

And where we are met with cynicism and doubt and those who tell us
That we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people. YES, we can

☆Obama’s word on dream links in spirit Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech.

Political eloquence has its critics. Lloyd Bentsen, criticising the Ronald Reagan administration, using alliteration:

America has just passed through…… an eight year coma in which slogans were confused with solutions and rhetoric passed for reality.

For more pearls, gems and precious insights, read Crystal’s book. He’s a Professor of Linguistics and broadcaster, amongst many literary achievements.

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