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The power of the word
Mar 23, 2012 12:00 am
Monday I was privileged to visit with the Lebanon Toastmasters as the organization celebrated its 10th anniversary.
I am thankful to Dr. John Lloyd and Connie Bullington, both of whom extended invitations to me.
I’m a word guy and I think that’s why the meeting appealed to me. My computer at work has a screensaver that flashes through a word and its meanings. I love dictionaries. And I actually enjoy reading books like the AP Stylebook and Libel Manual, The Elements of Style by Willian Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, and Fowler’s Modern English Usage.
There’s a common saying that the pen is mightier than the sword. That’s true, but what’s actually true is the word is mightier than the sword. The pen is merely one method of delivering the word.
Thomas Paine, in my view, is the most important writer in American history. The reason for this belief is simple. At a time when the colonies were trying to decide if they wanted to fight for independence or play make up with Great Britain, Paine’s pamphlet “Common Sense,” alerted the colonists to the dangers they faced, the importance of their liberties, and called them to fight.
John Adams said of the work, “Without the pen of the author of 'Common Sense,' the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.”
That’s powerful stuff and a clear example of the strength of writing.
But the ability to speak clearly can have the same impact.
The Gettysburg Address, given by Abraham Lincoln on Nov. 19, 1863, impacted the very history of the United States. It laid the grounds for the argument that the nation should remain united and has become an iconic piece of American history.
This incredibly profound impact took two minutes for President Lincoln to deliver.
Two minutes to change the course of a nation.
Two minutes in which he did nothing but speak.
That is the power of a spoken word.
Is Lincoln’s speech any less important than Paine’s pamphlet? I think not.
Lebanon Toastmasters understands there is strength in speaking and that words have meaning. They work weekly to hone and refine their skills so that they may communicate more clearly and effectively.
Myla Snyder spoke of work colleagues, outlining the traits and the types of personalities with which we are all familiar. President Randy Dewitt presided over the meeting and served as an evaluator. Faye Lloyd introduced the evaluator, offering a bit of history and background on each.
Every person who spoke Monday did so with care, with ease, and with a sense of humor.
What they talked about Monday will not change the course of a nation, a state, a city or even a business. But the simple fact is this – when a time comes when their words must be heard, when their words matter most, members of Lebanon Toastmasters will be prepared to deliver them clearly and powerfully.
Our nation’s history is filled with people who summoned great oratory skills when needed – Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and many others.
It is through great writing and great speaking that our nation is roused to take on the great challenge, be it civil war, world war, depression or putting a man on the moon.
And it doesn’t have to be long. A pamphlet changed the American Revolution. A two-minute speech changed the history of a nation. Roosevelt’s speech to Congress after Pearl Harbor, asking for their declaration of war against Japan, lasted only a little more than seven minutes. King’s “I have a dream” speech came in at only 17 minutes.
Words matter. Speech has an impact. The Lebanon Toastmasters understands this.
Clay Morgan may be reached by calling 444-3952, ext. 13, or 615-670-6989 (cell). His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.