October 14:  A Speech Can Save a Life Day

On this date in 1912, Theodore Roosevelt was shot by an unemployed saloon keeper in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Roosevelt was nearing the end of his campaign for president.  Having left politics after his second term as U.S. president in 1909, he returned for a run at an unprecedented third term when his hand-picked successor William Taft did not live up to his expectations.  For this campaign, Roosevelt formed a new political party, The Bull Moose Party (officially called the National Progressive Party).

On the evening of October 14th, Roosevelt was leaving his hotel in Milwaukee to make a campaign speech.  Just as he was entering the car that would take him to the auditorium, an unemployed saloonkeeper named John Schrank, standing a few feet away, fired a shot from his Colt .38 revolver into Roosevelt’s chest.  Schrank was immediately tackled and arrested, and Roosevelt’s handlers prepared to whisk him away to the hospital.  Roosevelt, however, refused, demanding to be taken immediately to the auditorium to fulfill his campaign appearance.

Only when he arrived backstage at the auditorium did Roosevelt allow himself to be examined by doctors.  Their exam revealed that a bullet had indeed pierced Roosevelt’s chest.  Although he was bleeding, the shot was not fatal — fortunately for Roosevelt the bullet’s path had been slowed by the folded 50-page speech he carried in his breast pocket.  Stepping up the podium, Roosevelt revealed his bloody shirt and the bullet-pierced manuscript of his speech to the audience.  He began his speech by saying:  “Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot—but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.”

Only after speaking for more than an hour did Roosevelt step away from the podium.  On Election Day, November 5th, Roosevelt lost the election to the Democratic candidate Woodrow Wilson.  John Schrank spent the rest of his life in an insane asylum.  In a somewhat Shakespearean twist, Schrank claimed that the ghost of President William McKinley had appeared to him and ordered the hit; it was McKinley’s assassination that had made Roosevelt president in 1901.

Today, visitors to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History can view a bullet-pierced page of Roosevelt’s speech.  The bullet, however, remained lodged in Roosevelt’s rib for the rest of his lift.  He died in his sleep in 1919 and is buried in Oyster Bay, New York.

Unlike many people, Theodore Roosevelt did not fear public speaking.  According to the Washington Post, public speaking is the the biggest phobia of Americans, followed by fear of heights, drowning, strangers, zombies, and clowns (in that order) (2).

One antidote to fear of public is a good sense of humor and a realistic understanding that it is an irrational fear, as illustrated by Jerry Seinfeld in the following joke:

I read a thing that actually says that speaking in front of a crowd is considered the number one fear of the average person. I found that amazing – number two was death! That means to the average person if you have to be at a funeral, you would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.

An even better antidote is to face it head on, as explain in the following analogy by Dale Carnegie in his book The Art of Public Speaking:

Did you ever notice in looking from a train window that some horses feed near the track and never even pause to look up at the thundering cars, while just ahead at the next railroad crossing a farmer’s wife will be nervously trying to quiet her scared horse as the train goes by? How would you cure a horse that is afraid of cars—graze him in a back-woods lot where he would never see steam-engines or automobiles, or drive or pasture him where he would frequently see the machines? Apply horse-sense to ridding yourself of self-consciousness and fear: face an audience as frequently as you can, and you will soon stop shying.

Today’s Challenge:  I Came, I Saw, I Spoke

How can people best sum up the courage to confront and conquer their fears of public speaking? What are your top three go-to topics for a brief speech?

You’re not always given the chance to pick your own topic; however, choosing and preparing speeches on topics you care about is an excellent way to gain the kind of confidence you need to speak under any circumstances (even with a bullet lodged in your chest).  For example, when Julius Caesar was a young man he was kidnapped by pirates; to kill time during his captivity, he composed short speeches and poems and read them aloud to his captors.  Brainstorm a list of your go-to speech topics — topics that you know something about and are passionate about.  Then compose a short speech sharing your passion with an audience. (Common Core Speaking and Listening 4 – Present Information)

Quotation of the Day:  Be sincere, be brief, be seated.  –Franklin D. Roosevelt, cousin to Theodore Roosevelt and 32nd President of the Unites States.

 

1- //www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-speech-that-saved-teddy-roosevelts-life-83479091/?no-ist

2- https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-real-story-risk/201211/the-thing-we-fear-more-death

 

October 4: Elevator Speech Day

On this day in 1911, the first public elevator began service at Earl’s Court Metro Station in London.  In England an elevator is called a “lift,” but whatever it’s called, an elevator ride is a short trip that puts you in a confined space with total strangers.

People who work in the business world make frequent trips on elevators. Maybe that’s why the elevator has become such a powerful communication metaphor in business the past few years.  The “elevator pitch” is a short speech put together by salespeople, entrepreneurs, or other business people to capsulize their ideas and to communicate them clearly to potential clients and investors.  The idea is to know your project, idea, or product so well that you can “sell” it to anyone on a short elevator ride.

In an elevator pitch, time is of the essence, so they must be crafted carefully. Each of the Seven Cs below is followed by advice on how to avoid a clunky ride:

1 Concise:  The speech should be no more than 60 seconds, so each word must count.

2 Clear:  There’s no time to repeat yourself, so make sure that your ideas are clear enough to be understood by your audience.

3 Compelling:  Include a hook, some dramatic tension, and vivid imagery to show your audience that your ideas are important and that something significant is at stake.

4 Credible:  Include credible evidence that shows that you have done your homework and that you know what you’re talking about.

5 Concrete:  Give your audience specific, tangible details and evidence that shows, not just tells, your point.

6 Conversational:  Write out your complete elevator speech, but include plain, forceful language that makes is sound spontaneous and natural.

7 Complete:  Any speech, even a short one, needs a beginning, a middle, and and end.  Organize it with these three parts, writing strategically to open strong, to maintain interest in the middle, and to close confidently(1).

Today’s Challenge:  Going Up with an Up-to-the-Minute Pitch
How would you complete the following title with an idea that would make a compelling speech:  “Why You Should . . . “ ?  Brainstorm some ideas; then, select your best one, and write an elevator pitch that follows the principles of The Seven Cs.  Be prepared to share your pitch, attempting to get as close as you can to the one minute time limit.  Work with a partner to practice, time, and perfect your pitch.  (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Examples of elevator pitch topics:

Why you should floss.

Why you should go to college.

Why you should not be afraid of failure.

Why you should become an organ donor.

Why you should take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Why you should make your speeches short and to the point.

Why you should take notes by hand instead of with a laptop.

(Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  The purpose of an elevator pitch isn’t to close the sale. The goal isn’t even to give a short, accurate, Wikipedia-standard description of you or your project. And the idea of using vacuous, vague words to craft a bland mission statement is dumb. No, the purpose of an elevator pitch is to describe a situation or solution so compelling that the person you’re with wants to hear more even after the elevator ride is over. -Seth Godwin

 

1-http://elevatorpitchessentials.com/essays/ElevatorPitch.html

September 25:  Convocation Day

On this date in 1991, Professor Jacob Neusner, a historian of religion, delivered the convocation address to students at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. Unlike a commencement speech, which is presented at a graduation ceremony at the end of a school term, a convocation is a speech to incoming students at the beginning of a school term.

The purpose of a convocation, therefore, is to call a student body together and to spark the students’ quest for knowledge as they stand poised at the beginning of a new school year.  Neusner clearly is qualified to speak about acquiring knowledge, having played a part in the publication of over 1,000 books, either as an author, editor, or translator.  In his convocation, Neusner evoked examples of history’s great teachers, teachers who helped their students to discover truth for themselves:

Socrates was the greatest philosopher of all time, and all he did was walk around the streets and ask people irritating questions.  Jesus was certainly the most influential teacher in history, and his longest “lecture” — for instance, the Sermon on the Mount — cannot have filled up an hour of classroom time or a page in a notebook.  

Professor Neusner ended his speech by calling students to look not only to their teachers for learning, but also to look within themselves:

Your imagination is our richest national resource; an open and active mind, our most precious intangible treasure.  That’s what we try to do at our universities and colleges in this country:  teach people to teach themselves, which is what life is all about — during the coming year, and during all the years of your lives and mine.

Today’s Challenge:  School’s Cool! You’d Be a Fool to Miss a Single Day at School
What is the purpose of education?  What would you say to welcome, motivate, and inspire students to make the most of their learning in the coming year?  Write the text of your convocation speech giving your audience the best advice you can about how not to take their education for granted. (Common Core Writing 1 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  Professors are there to guide, to help, to goad, to irritate, to stimulate.  Students are there to explore, to inquire, to ask questions, to experiment, to negotiate knowledge. –Jacob Neusner

 

1- Safire, William.  Lend Me Your Ears:  Great Speeches in History.  New York:  W.W. Norton & Company, 1997.

Epic Welcome

September 11:   Motivational Movie Monologue Day

On this date in the year 1297, the Scottish defeated the English in The Battle of Stirling Bridge.  Heavily outnumbered by English infantry and cavalry, the Scottish army led by William Wallace and Andrew de Moray nevertheless won the battle (1).

In the film Braveheart, William Wallace, portrayed by Mel Gibson, gives a rousing speech to the Scottish troops.  With the odds clearly against them, the Scottish troops are at first reluctant to fight.  After listening to Wallace’s succinct, clear, and forceful speech, however, they storm into battle:

Fight and you may die. Run and you will live at least a while. And dying in your bed many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance, to come back here as young men and tell our enemies that they may take our lives but they will never take our freedom!

Although the film is based on actual historical events surrounding the battle, the speech itself is fictional.  

Today’s Challenge:  Get Them Moving with a Moving Monologue
How do you motivate people to do something they may not want to do?  Write your own rousing fictional monologue based on a character who is in a situation where he or she needs to motivate an audience to act.  Begin by brainstorming some speakers and some situations, such as a son trying to persuade his father to raise his allowance, a door to door salesperson trying to persuade a homeowner to buy a security system, or a teacher trying to persuade her students to do their homework.  Then, write your speech from the point of view of the speaker you have chose, combining logic and passion to move the audience to action. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quote of the Day:  You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die.  Or when. You can only decide how you’re going to live.  Now.  -Joan Baez

1- http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/battleswars12011400/p/stirlingbridge.htm

September 2:  Presidential Proverb Day

On this date in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt gave a speech at the Minnesota State Fair where he used a line that was to become famously associated with him:  “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”  Roosevelt was Vice President at the time, but he would soon become the youngest president ever just eight days later when President William McKinley died from an assassin’s bullet.

In his speech, Roosevelt did not claim that his metaphor was original, but he did extend the metaphor to illustrate how it applied to foreign policy:

A good many of you are probably acquainted with the old proverb, “Speak softly and carry a big stick – you will go far.” If a man continually blusters, if he lacks civility, a big stick will not save him from trouble, and neither will speaking softly avail, if back of the softness there does not lie strength, power. In private life there are few beings more obnoxious than the man who is always loudly boasting, and if the boaster is not prepared to back up his words, his position becomes absolutely contemptible. So it is with the nation. (1)

As President, Roosevelt practiced what he preached, “speaking softly” by negotiating peacefully with other nations while wielding the “big stick” of a strong military.  One clear example of this was “The Great White Fleet,” an armada of sixteen battleships that circumnavigated the globe to demonstrate the Unites States’ military might. More than just a masterful politician, Roosevelt was a historian, biographer, and author of more than 25 books (2).

Roosevelt is not the only president to practice his powers of rhetoric.  Below are a few other vivid examples:

Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing. -Abraham Lincoln

What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog.  -Dwight D. Eisenhower

Old minds are like old horses; you must exercise them if you wish to keep them in working order.  -John Adams

If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress. -Barack Obama

Today’s Challenge:  Wisdom from the Whitehouse
What would you argue is the smartest thing ever said by a United States president?  Argue for one of the quotations on this page, or research another one on your own.  Make your case by explaining your reasoning.  (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  No man who ever held the office of president would congratulate a friend on obtaining it. -John Adams

1-http://www.startribune.com/sept-3-1901-roosevelt-big-stick-speech-at-state-fair/273586721/ 

2-https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/theodoreroosevelt

August 28:  Anaphora Day

Today is the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his unforgettable I Have a Dream speech to the crowd of roughly 250,000 gathered at the Lincoln Memorial.

Early in his speech King invokes Lincoln and the unfulfilled promise of the Emancipation Proclamation:

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free (2).

King went on to cite two other vital American documents, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Using the metaphor of a bad check, King argued that the United States would not be a truly free nation until it fulfilled these promissory notes for all of its citizens, ending segregation, “withering injustice,” and the persecution of black Americans.

An ordained Baptist minister and a doctor of theology, King knew how to craft a sermon and how to deliver a speech. His choice of nonviolent protest meant that his words and his rhetoric would determine the success or failure of his civil rights mission. King was up to the task. There is probably no more telling example of the power of words to persuade, motivate, and change the course of history than the speech King delivered on August 28, 1963.

Rhetoric is the use of language to persuade. Aristotle defined it as “the faculty of discovering in any particular case all of the available means of persuasion.” Martin Luther King, Jr. used many of these “means of persuasion” (also known as rhetorical devices) to persuade his audience. He used metaphor: beacon of hope and manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. He used alliteration:dark and desolate, sweltering summer, and Jews and Gentiles. He used antithesis: will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

But more than any other device, King used repetition and anaphora, the repetition of one or more words at the beginning of a phrase or clause.

Certain words echo throughout his speech. Unlike redundancy, this repetition is intentional. These words ring like abell, repeatedly reminding the listener of key themes. In the I Have a Dream speech the words justice and dream both ring out eleven times. But one word is repeated far more than any other; the word freedom tolls 20 times. In King’s dream there is no crack in the Liberty Bell; instead, it rings out loudly and clearly, a triumphant declaration that America has finally lived up to its potential.

Anaphora comes from the Greek meaning “I repeat.” It’s the kind of repetition at the beginning of a line or a sentence that you see in the Psalms or in the Sermon on the Mount:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

(Matthew 3:3-6 King James Version)

King uses anaphora for six different phrases that echo throughout his speech:

One hundred years later . . .

We refuse to believe . . .

Now is the time . . .

With this faith . . .

I have a dream . . .

Let freedom ring . . . 

King also chose one of these examples of anaphora as the title of his speech. The repeated clause I have a dream comes at the climactic moment in the speech which is probably why it is the most frequently quoted part:

I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together (1).

Today’s Challenge:  
What is something that you think is underrated?  What makes this topic so underrated, and why should people hold the topic in higher esteem?  Certainly the purpose of Martin Luther King’s speech was to help the nation to not overlook the importance of civil rights for black Americans.  His speech succeeded in changing the course of the movement, leading to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Brainstorm some topics that you think are underrated?  Try for a variety of topics, some on serious topics like civil rights and others on not so serious topics. Select the one topic you feel is most underrated and construct an argument where you explain why the topic should be held in higher esteem. In addition to specific evidence and commentary, use anaphora to make your case.  (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Example:

Walking is underrated.  It benefits the body, the mind, and the pocketbook. If everyone in the U.S. were to walk briskly for just thirty minutes per day, we would cut the incidences of chronic diseases dramatically.  Walking reduces the risk of heart disease, the risk of diabetes, the risk of arthritis, and the risk of cancer.  It’s also good for the mind since studies show that walking reduces the likelihood of clinical depression.  Smart seniors know the psychological value of staying active, breathing fresh air, and saving their hard-earned dollars by paying less for gas.  Instead of venerating our motor vehicle obsessed society, we should celebrate citizens who stroll along the sidewalks of suburbia.  More walkers mean less traffic, less pollution, and less wasted gas money.  With so many potential positives, no one should view walking as a pain anymore.   

Quotation of the Day: Have no unreasonable fear of repetition. . . . The story is told of a feature writer who was doing a piece on the United Fruit Company. He spoke of bananas once; he spoke of bananas twice; he spoke of bananas yet a third time, and now he was desperate. “The world’s leading shippers of the elongated yellow fruit,” he wrote. A fourth banana would have been better. -James J. Kilpatrick

1 – http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/documents/1951-/martin-luther-kings-i-have-a-dream-speech-august-28-1963.php

 

 

June 11:  Civil Rights Day

On this day in 1963, President John F. Kennedy addressed the nation from the Oval Office proposing that Congress begin the process of drafting a civil rights act.  Many view August 5, 1963, the date of the March on Washington, as the most significant date in the history of civil rights, but because of Kennedy’s speech and because of the other events of that day, June 11, 1963 deserves consideration as the day that launched a revolution in civil rights.  

President Kennedy addresses nation on Civil Rights, 11 June 1963.jpgThe event that sparked Kennedy’s speech occurred in Alabama earlier in the day.  At the University of Alabama, Governor George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door attempting to block the entrance of two black students.  For many white Americans in 1963, the issue of segregation was largely a regional political issue.  In the speech he gave from the Oval Office, Kennedy made civil rights a national issue.  In addition, he addressed not just as a political issue but a moral one.  

The year 1963 was the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, and in his speech, Kennedy linked the plight of African-Americans with the character and the unity of the entire nation:

One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and economic oppression. And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.

More than just reporting what was happening in Alabama, Kennedy was inviting all Americans to do something for their country by playing a positive role in the sweeping change.  He was asking Americans to support the kind of actions that would allow the United States to fulfill its promise to all it citizens:

We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is the land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettos, no master race except with respect to Negroes?

Now the time has come for this Nation to fulfill its promise. The events in Birmingham and elsewhere have so increased the cries for equality that no city or State or legislative body can prudently choose to ignore them. The fires of frustration and discord are burning in every city, North and South, where legal remedies are not at hand. Redress is sought in the streets, in demonstrations, parades, and protests which create tensions and threaten violence and threaten lives.

We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and a people. It cannot be met by repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased demonstrations in the streets. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is a time to act in the Congress, in your State and local legislative body and, above all, in all of our daily lives. It is not enough to pin the blame on others, to say this a problem of one section of the country or another, or deplore the facts that we face. A great change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all. Those who do nothing are inviting shame, as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right, as well as reality . . . .

The old code of equity law under which we live commands for every wrong a remedy, but in too many communities, in too many parts of the country, wrongs are inflicted on Negro citizens and there are no remedies at law. Unless the Congress acts, their only remedy is the street.

I am, therefore, asking the Congress to enact legislation giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public — hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments. This seems to me to be an elementary right. Its denial is an arbitrary indignity that no American in 1963 should have to endure, but many do. (1)

Kennedy’s speech with its moral and forceful tone set the stage for the March on Washington two month later, where Martin Luther King would give his great “I Have a Dream” speech.  In the history books, King’s speech has largely overshadowed Kennedy’s June speech.  However, without Kennedy’s push for and endorsement of legislative action, the Civil Rights Act might not have become a reality.  

After Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963, his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson made Kennedy’s dream a reality, signing the bill into law on July 2, 1964 (2).

Today’s Challenge:  You Say You Want a Revolution
What are the issues today that need reform or change?  What are the specific problems with the status quo, and how might specific revolutionary changes improve the situation for everyone?  Brainstorm some issues that you think might be ripe for reform.  Select one, and identify what the problems are with the status quo, and present possible solutions that might bring about positive change. Write the text of a brief speech presenting the issue, the problems, and your solution.  (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  You see things; and you say “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say “Why not?” -George Bernard Shaw

1-Kennedy’s Civil Rights Address (complete text)

2-Joseph, Peniel E..  “Kennedy’s Finest Moment.”  New York Times 10 June 2013.

 

June 6: D-Day

On this day in 1944, the largest invasion in history began as the Allied armies assaulted the beaches of Normandy, France with 133,000 soldiers from England, Canada, and the United States. The war in Europe would not end until nearly one year after D-Day, but without a successful invasion on June 6th, the progress of the war and the final outcome certainly would have been different. As a result, if you were to talk about the single most influential day or moment in the 20th century, you would be hard pressed to find any more faithful day than June 6, 1944.

On the morning of June 6, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces General Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered the following “Order of the Day” to the Allied forces as they awaited their appointment with history:

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Forces: You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!

Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking. (1)

Thousands of copies of Eisenhower’s message were printed on small enough pieces of paper that soldiers could keep them in their wallets or breast pockets (2).

Image resultLike the Gettysburg Address, which was only 272 words, Eisenhower wrote a concise message of only 238 words.  In language that was forceful, honest, and direct, he clearly presented the mission and its importance to each soldier, sailor, and airman.

As well as planning for victory on D-Day, Eisenhower also had the unpleasant task of preparing for defeat. One day before D-Day, Eisenhower wrote out the following brief message on a piece of paper:

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone (3).

The term D-Day was originally a general military term that referred to the day on which a combined attack would take place, especially when that day needed to be kept secret. Because of the enormous size and success of the Normandy assault, however, today D-Day has become synonymous with one specific day:  June 6, 1944.

Today’s Challenge:  Micro Motivational Message
What is a situation in which a single leader might address a group of people with a short motivational message?What would be specific examples of a speaker/leader, a group, and the group’s mission?  Brainstorm some possible situations in which a leader might address a group with a specific mission.  Select a single situation, and write your message of approximately 250 words. Write in the persona of the specific leader writing the specific motivational words that the leader might present to help his or her audience succeed in their mission.

Examples:

-A teacher speaking to a class about how to succeed on the final test.

-A coach speaking to his or her team about how to win a big game.

-A manager talking to his or her sales team about how to break sales records for the month.

-A band leader talking to his or her group about how to play the best gig ever.

-A mayor talking to town citizens about how to make their town great.

(Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day: Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. -Dwight D. Eisenhower

1-https://www.archives.gov/historical-docs/todays-doc/?dod-date=606

2-http://www.anythinganywhere.com/commerce/military/usa-ike-dday.jpg

3-http://www.npr.org/2013/06/08/189535104/the-speech-eisenhower-never-gave-on-the-normandy-invasion

June 4: Repetition for Effect Day

On this date in 1940, Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressed the House of Commons and the British people.  France had fallen to Nazi Germany, but all was not lost:  over 300,000 allied soldiers had been successfully evacuated from Dunkirk.  Churchill’s purpose in this speech was to buoy the spirits of the British people.  Europe had fallen, but the British Empire would not give up and would not go down without a fight.

In the final paragraph, or preoration, of his speech, Churchill unleashed one of history’s most dramatic finishes:

We shall fight on the seas and oceans,

 we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air,

 we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be.

We shall fight on the beaches,

 we shall fight on the landing grounds,

 we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,

 we shall fight in the hills;

 we shall never surrender . . . .

There’s a fine line between repetition and redundancy, but as demonstrated by Churchill, when employed at the right time and at the right place, repetition can create the kind of dramatic emphasis that rolls and resonates like ocean waves repeatedly crashing on the rocky shore.  Churchill, a master of rhetoric, knew what he was doing.  He knew just when and just where to employ this echo effect for maximum impact.

Another element of Churchill’s mastery is his use of succinct, simple language.  As he explains in his “Scaffolding of Rhetoric,” published when he was 23 years old:

The shorter words of a language are usually the more ancient. Their meaning is more ingrained in the national character and they appeal with greater force to simple understandings than words recently introduced from the Latin and the Greek. All the speeches of great English rhetoricians–except when addressing highly cultured audiences–display an uniform preference for short, homely words of common usage–so long as such words can fully express their thoughts and feelings….

Today’s Challenge:  You Can Say That Again
Some of the best known sayings, expressions, titles, and aphorisms in the English language use repetition for effect:

No pain, no gain

First come, first served

United we stand, divided we fall

Put up or shut up

Never Say Never Again

What are some examples of great quotations that repeat at least one significant word?  What would you say is the best thing ever said with repetition?  Read the quotations below as examples; then, research a quotation that you think is particularly well stated.  In addition to presenting the quotation and the name of the speaker, explain why you like the quotation based on both what it says and how it says it.

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. -William Shakespeare

There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why. -William Barclay

The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. -Ellen Parr

When a person can no longer laugh at himself, it is time for others to laugh at him . -Thomas Szasz

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. -Martin Luther King Jr.

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. -Albert Einstein

(Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Today’s Quotation:  Repetition is based on body rhythms, so we identify with the heartbeat, or with walking, or with breathing. -Karlheinz Stockhausen

June 1: Commencement Day

Today is the anniversary of a commencement address that really was not a commencement address. The story begins with Mary Schmich, a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Chicago Tribune. On June 1, 1997 she published a column that was so insightful that it took on a life of its own.

Somehow an urban legend evolved that Schmich’s words were a commencement address by author Kurt Vonnegut to the 1997 graduates of MIT.  The truth is, however, Vonnegut did not present a commencement address to MIT in 1997, nor did he have anything to do with the writing of Schmich’s column.

The title of Schmich’s column was Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young, and here is an excerpt:

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97:

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself . . . .

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen (1).

The word commencement comes to English via Latin. It simply means a beginning or a start. This probably explains the tone of most commencement speeches, which honor the accomplishments of graduates but focus primarily on what is to come in the real world. As a result, most commencement addresses are full of advice.

Today’s Challenge: Commence with the Advice
What advice would you give to graduates?  Imagine that have been asked to dispense commencement advice to a crowd of high school or college graduates.  What advice would you give them? As you write, select your verbs carefully.  Good advice hinges on vivid, precise verbs. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  I have two last pieces of advice. First, being pre-approved for a credit card does not mean you have to apply for it. And lastly, the best career advice I can give you is to get your own TV show. It pays well, the hours are good, and you are famous. And eventually some very nice people will give you a doctorate in fine arts for doing jack squat.
–Stephen Colbert, 2006 Knox College Commencement Address

1- Schmich, Mary. Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young.  Chicago Tribune. 1 June 1997.