Simply the Best Public Speaker in America Today
If you haven’t listened to or read former President Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic Convention last night, you’ve missed a treat. You may or may not like Bill Clinton as a man, as a politician or as a president, but his public speaking skills are absolutely extraordinary. Not only does he has an exceptional ability to cast complex issues in clear, comprehensible ways, without in any way condescending to his audience; the man adapts his speeches to audience’s reaction in real time in absolutely extraordinary ways.
Now WC has a major in communication, focused largely on public speaking. WC may or may not have decent public speaking skills. But WC knows enough to recognize great work when he sees it. Clinton’s natural gift for adjusting his speech to audience is superb. Ruby Cramer over at BuzzFeed has painstakingly documented how Clinton adapted his speech to his audience in real time, taking the prepared text and marking it up to show what Clinton actually said. Serious props to Ms. Cramer for her work.
On the fly, he did things like substitute “kids” for “children” and broke long sentences into shorter ones, giving his speech more punch. He ad-libbed arguably the best point he made, “It’s arithmetic,” and linked it seamlessly into his prepared remarks. He changed the “double down on trickle down” to link it to handing off the “reins of government.” With very, very few exceptions, Clinton’s changes, including his ad-lib additions, made the speech much more forceful.
If you think that’s easy, feel free to try it yourself. And imagine that there are millions of people watching, and that both your original text and the changes you make will be placed under the microscope and endlessly analyzed.
You don’t have to agree with the sense of what Clinton said to recognize that this man is a genius public speaker. Of course, WC does agree with most of what Clinton said, which makes WC appreciate the genius even more.
As an exercise in public speaking, as an instance of persuasive speaking, Clinton’s speech is going to be studied by students for decades to come. Absolutely a remarkable effort.