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MLK … request for his eulogy

When asked about what he would like to have included in his eulogy, Martin Luther King answered this way:

“Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a drum major for righteousness.  And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

RFK … speaking about MLK

In a 1968 speech to an African-American audience in Indianapolis, Robert F. Kennedy shared these thoughts about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort.” 

Two months later – in June of ’68 – Robert Kennedy himself was assassinated.

What freelance speechwriters can learn from U.S. Civil Service

On this date in history … January 16, 1883:

Today marks the anniversary of the Pendleton Act.  Its enactment set up the U.S. Civil Service as a merit system of employment. 

A thought:

Freelance speechwriting might illustrate the ultimate merit system of employment.  Even in this tough economy, skilled speechwriters are working.  This week, I received a number of leads for speechwriting assignments.  I couldn’t pursue them all, so I passed these job leads along to folks who’ve attended my seminars. 

Referrals are the hallmark of a merit system:  good speechwriters stand out … and get recommended for good assignments.  

Introducing MLK at Rabbinical Assembly

On March 25, 1968, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel introduced Dr. Martin Luther King at the 68th Annual Convention of the Rabbinical Assembly:

“Where in America today do we hear a voice like the voice of the prophets of Israel?  Martin Luther King is a sign that God has not forsaken the United States of America.  His presence is the hope of America.”

Dr. King was assassinated 10 days after this speech was given.

MLK Birthday

Martin Luther King, Jr., was born on January 15, 1929. 

Less well known:  On January 15, 1929, the Kellogg-Briand Pact was ratified.  It addressed the peaceful settlement of international disputes. 

Filler Words

Yesterday was an anniversary (of sorts).  On January 14, 2008, John McCain took his “my friends” phrase to new heights:  using it 31 times in a single speech. 

Now, if someone could please advise Caroline Kennedy to stop inserting “you know” throughout her remarks … that would be good.

Inauguration Speech of 1997

From President Bill Clinton (January 20, 1997):

“Martin Luther King’s Dream was the American Dream.  His quest is our quest: the ceaseless striving to live out our true creed.  Our history has been built upon such dreams and labors.  And by our dreams and labors we will redeem the promise of America in the twenty-first century.”

“J’accuse” (I accuse)

January 13, 1898 (Paris):  Emile Zola’s letter to the President of France was published … initiating a long public debate.  In “J’accuse,” Zola accused top officials of anti-semitism in their prosecution a French solider name Alfred Dreyfus.   

By the end of the case, Captain Dreyfus was cleared of all espionage charges … the government of France was rocked … and the French military was changed. 

Errors and Prejudices

From Samuel Johnson, on January 12, 1751:

“There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed.”

Taped Speeches

One of my seminar attendees emailed yesterday, asking “How can we get our folks to watch the taped speeches we produce … all the way through, beginning to end?”  Quick answer:  You can’t make viewers watch every minute.  You can only make the speech so darned good that they will want to watch every minute.So, on the theory that “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”, here are some questions you need to ask yourself:

1. “How will we say it?” (Conversational language, appealing video, and real-life examples pull audiences much better than bureaucratic gobbledygook.)

2. “When will we say it?” (Give a speech too soon, and viewers might not be ready to think about your topic.  But give a speech too late, and viewers might be bored from having already heard too much about this topic.)

3. “Where will we say it?” (Will you show the taped speech in a large auditorium … or in small work groups, to enjoy with with coffee/tea/snacks?)

4. “How often will we say it?”  (Is this speech a stand-alone communication … or part of a series of related speeches? Do your viewers have to watch taped messages so often that it becomes a burden on their time … or do they receive speeches so seldom that a video “out of the blue” merely seems random.  Think about your timing.)

5. “Who says it?” (Who narrates? Why should this person be the narrator? Who are the experts? What are the male/female ratios of your sources? Do your authorities reflect diversity in age/background/rank/etc?)

6. “Who else could say it?” (Have you been overusing one particular spokesperson? Perhaps it’s time to find another voice.  Is your President a poor speaker?  Then tap a terrific Sr VP.  Is your General too busy to do the necessary rehearsals? Then find other leaders who can do the speech … or who can do parts of the speech.)

You can learn much more in IT’S NOT WHAT YOU SAY, IT’S HOW YOU SAY IT (St. Martin’s Press, 2000):   “Destined to become a classic in the modern art of speechmaking.” (Joe Gonzalez, President, New Jersey Business & Industry Association)

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