A Speaker’s Manifesto

Using the word manifesto in this week’s title may be something of a surprise given my previously stated intent of posting only positive content in this year’s catalogue of web log messages. The word is likely to conjure up images of political declarations made in opposition to the prevailing leadership. Many such statements have been made since the current presidential administration took office. But this one, while inspired by events emanating from that particularly whitewashed house in Washington, DC, has a far broader spectrum of applications, with its own redeeming qualities appropriate to my purpose.

A manifesto is a public statement of policy, whether verbal or written, and my policy – publicly stated in the previous weeks – is to follow Johnny Mercer’s lyrical advice by accentuating the positive. His song also included the concept of sharing joy to the max, but joy is a precious commodity and not easily produced without appearing to be a false sense of elation. So sticking to the more pervasive ways of positive expression is sufficient for this and other messages over the remainder of the year. And this week I would like to say something positive about the very act of speaking, especially speaking publicly, whether imparted as a manifesto or an ill-considered, throw away comment.

Recently much has been said about the President’s use of a certain S-word in describing some of this world’s poorest nations. And the blow-back of commentary has been overwhelmingly critical of him, including the excessive use of a certain R-word in an attempt to further marginalize him and – by inference – his supporters, the deplorables of pre-election fame. Sadly, the originators of the blow-back are responding in-kind and making atrocious use of our language containing all the earmarks of personal, political gain. The campaign for the 2020 presidential election appears to be well underway despite the media attention more sharply focused on the 2018 midterm elections this November.

The goal of my own message is to propose what I believe to be a basic speaker’s manifesto, a public statement about making public statements. And keeping it simple is an act of acquiescence to our capacity for stupidity. Unfortunately, the less complex the concept, the less appeal it may possess for those who need it most but try to prove their worth by adorning themselves with sophistication. So here is my recipe for putting word to tongue in hopes of making a valid point and providing sensible guidance.

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. What the President said was reckless and its ability to pierce was more in keeping with a guided missile rather than a sword. But the point, pun intended, is still easily understood with our 21st Century mentality. The point not made in this ancient aphorism is that the damage is truly self-inflicted with the inevitable collateral damage impaling one’s allies, the people we should commit to protect instead of marking them as the proverbial deer caught in the media’s headlights. It is the second half of this insight, though, that becomes the first item in our speaker’s manifesto: wise words heal. They do not infect, inflict or eviscerate our listeners.

Point two literally compliments our initial “talking” point. It says, Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Pleasant words are wise words. And a wise person does not need to blow smoke in order to speak pleasantly.  The best communicators will first find something of mutual value with their audience and then lead with that morsel of delectable delight as a means to create a taste and desire for what is to follow. Kind, even gracious, words can prepare the way for the more difficult topics, which require our attention, by first touching the soul with their gentle, sweet, and healing influence. And what a wonderful idea it is to consider that our words can bring healing to a relationship. It gives listening a better chance at demonstrating its ability to unify any gathering of human hearts.

Talking point three takes this idea one step further. The lips of the righteous nourish many. We all like to be fed. Satisfying our internal cravings, especially when the need is essential for survival, is the mark of a truly compassionate person and a great leader. Those of us who are ample in girth still need to be satiated mentally and spiritually. We need purpose and a meaningful sense of direction. Words can initiate the process with a power to inspire the will to accomplish our righteous goals. Consider the words from President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address with its emphasis on the spoken word as the harbinger of a new generation’s commitment to the greatness of our American ideals.

“Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans, born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world. Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

My concept of a speaker’s manifesto is really not my own. I have shamelessly borrowed heavily from, you might say even plagiarized, the written words of a king, King Solomon to be exact. His insights from millennia ago are just as applicable today as they were then. And they carry the weight of a proven political leader as opposed to being the naive speculations of this stay at home blogger. He was Wisdom’s advocate, portraying it as a beautiful woman to be cherished, caressed and yielded to as if heeding the compassionate counsel of a loving wife.

His insights assure us that when Wisdom speaks out publicly she does so with a desire to reveal her heart and make her wise counsel available to all. Her words are always right and true and just. Her words, though forceful, are spoken with prudence and discretion. Her ways are pleasant and peaceful, offering others the promise of long life, riches and honor. Wisdom exalts and honors others and for those who heed her advice She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor.

“Splendor is hard work.” These are the words spoken by Catherine the Great, Empress of all the Russias, in Eva Stachniak’s historical novel Empress of the Night. The words are spoken as Catherine considers how much effort her maids-in-waiting must exert in order to make her presentable to her court. The frailty of human flesh must be hidden so that it does not betray the still palpable will of someone as powerful as an empress.

The splendor that can come from implementing my speaker’s manifesto is also the result of hard work. Speaking with the qualities promoted by King Solomon so long ago requires intent, practice, and a total disregard for the barbed responses for today’s media and blogosphere harpies, who cannot abide a concept for goodness not of their making.

But why wait for others to become dedicated practitioners of this kind of verbal art? We each of us can start at home and work outwards through the various communities we inhabit, such as school, workplace and neighborhood. Being the initiator will give us the opportunity to witness firsthand the efficacy of Solomon’s advice, both as it impacts others and even ourselves. And who knows what impact our example might have. When we choose to let the word go forth, let us do so with compassion, revealing the desire to heal and to nourish as proclaimed in our manifesto. For if we can do so with the added touch of love, perhaps we will find out after all that love is indeed and many splendored thing.

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