Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rhetoric 101

The tradition of a Western political rhetoric is a great one, dating back at least to Demosthenes and Pericles in fourth and fifth century Athens. The Greeks developed it into a science, and Aristotle can tell you all about it in The Rhetoric. Our own day is not a golden age of moving political speech (though Chris Matthews may disagree). But Councilman Phil Davison's nomination speech before the Stark County Republican Party's executive committee meeting for the office of treasurer is a textbook case of what not to do. See if you can spot the errors. They're subtle, but unmistakable.

Okay, they're not subtle. In fact, it's painful to watch.

Just a couple of things. He both does and does not want to wander from the podium. You can give a good speech from notes, but if you do, you have to stand in one place and deliver it. If you want to do the dramatic pacing, you have to know the speech or know your thoughts well enough to deliver it extemporaneously. I thought it was particularly humorous that when he came to his favorite Einstein quote, "one of my most favorite quotes in the history of the spoken word," he botched it and had to return to his notes to get it right.

Final irony: he has a master's degree in communication. He boasts of this.

Davison was denied the nomination.

Thanks Richie for the clip, and for this related one.

The Huffington Post was pleased to report on the Stark County spectacle here.

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