Kevin Rudd Vs. Obama
Posted by Presentation Skills on January 23, 2008
There was a great article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Stephanie Peatling analysing the public speaking skills of the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with those of US Presidential Hopeful Barack Obama. It’s a great article that highlights the different styles of speaking of recent Australian political leaders and compares them to Obama. They are like chalk and cheese!
The full article can be found here. I have also copied the full article below as I do not know for how long the link will work.
Obama offers hope for the art of speechmaking
January 21, 2008
A press gallery favourite was “termagant”, which Beazley once hurled at Tony Abbott, who no doubt scurried to check its meaning (“an imaginary Muslim deity portrayed as a violent and overbearing character in medieval mystery plays”) before responding.
But although Beazley tossed out words not used by the average person for several decades, it was done with delight and love for language. He would never have told journalists he did not want the gathering of federal, state and territory leaders known as the Council of Australian Governments “to become a sort of dead horse”.
“I want it to be a workhorse, not a dead horse. I don’t want to whip it. I just want to stroke it gently … Just lately the poetry’s lacking. But my intention is to meet it regularly and actually turn it into a real workhorse of the Federation,” Rudd said in one of his first press conferences as Prime Minister.
John Howard ushered in a new era of no-frills speaking and there is not yet much evidence to suggest the new Prime Minister wants to return to the sweeping verbal landscapes of Paul Keating. Rudd’s use of language so far is functional and administrative. In English, at least. In Mandarin he seems to get a far more appreciative response.
Rudd does have a staffer whose job includes speechwriting but not someone whose only job is speechwriting. Keating had the lyrical Don Watson as his speechwriter. Before him went Graham Freudenberg, the great Labor speechwriter who wrote Arthur Calwell’s 1965 censure of the Vietnam War, Gough Whitlam’s “It’s Time” speech of 1972 and also wrote for Bob Hawke, Neville Wran, Barrie Unsworth, Simon Crean, Bob Carr and Sir William Deane.
Maybe the language of Australian politics merely reflects the broader popular culture, with its Big Brother participants and Corey Worthingtons and seeming lack of room or desire for elegance and subtlety.
But maybe there is hope.
Thousands of Americans are responding to the speeches of Barack Obama, whose emotive use of language is propelling him towards the White House.
“Years from now, you’ll look back and you’ll say that this was the moment, this was the place where America remembered what it means to hope,” Obama told people gathered to hear him claim victory in the Iowa primary earlier this month.
“For many months, we’ve been teased, even derided, for talking about hope. But we always knew that hope is not blind optimism. It’s not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It’s not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it.”
If Americans can respond so enthusiastically to such flair there is no reason to doubt Australians would do the same.
All we need is for someone to start speaking.