Friday, June 03, 2011

120 Influences, Part 7: Orators

  1. Clarence Darrow: His fiery rhetoric and compassion won me over at an early age. Read his summation speeches at the trails of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb (1924), John T. Scopes (a.k.a. "Monkey Trial," 1925), and Ossian Sweet et al (1925).

  2. Mohandas Gandhi: His words and deeds exuded selflessness, sacrifice, and peace. Reading his words is a stimulating intellectual exercise; hearing him speak them is a spiritual experience.

  3. Jesus of Nazareth: His wisdom has influenced billions of people, Christian and non-Christian, for two millennia.

  4. Helen Keller: That this deaf and blind woman chose to speak is a testament to her courage. That she spoke eloquently for the disabled, women's rights, peace, and the poor is a legacy matched by so few. She is a constant reminder that we should not be too proud of our accomplishments, as they pale in comparison to hers.

  5. John F. Kennedy: He was the right speaker at the right time: charming, vigorous, eloquent, and insightful. He used his skills for good and bad, leading the US to space, upping the confrontational ante against the Iron Curtain, aggravating an unwinnable war, and inspiring volunteerism at an unprecedented rate.

  6. Martin Luther King, Jr.: His sermon-style presentations are peerless, and he was quite a writer as well. His universal themes of peace and equality are enduring.

  7. Abraham Lincoln: He was just the grounded, forward-thinking spokesman for unity that the United States needed during its Civil War. His speeches are gems.

  8. Barack Obama: His rhetorical skills and speech-writing ability transcend politics. Many of his addresses will make the all-time lists of most rhetoricians.

  9. Socrates: His approach to problem solving, debating, and teaching remains a standard for many educators and writers today. Read Plato's Apology, Crito, Gorgias, Meno, and Protagoras, and Republic to get a taste of the rhetorical style of Socrates.

  10. Alan Watts: Listen to his compelling, witty, instructive podcasts on Eastern philosophy. Never a dull moment.