Speech 101 or sounding ‘Presidential’

Published 9:53 am Monday, March 6, 2017

Call me a guy who just loves to hear presidential speeches.

Sometimes I sit awed by words of everything from counsel to comfort pour from the lips of the nation’s Chief Executive.

I know, they almost never write EVERY word of them, and the speechwriters get precious little credit, but still there’s something about sitting in front of the box and hearing the country’s highest office-holder speak to his ‘public’ that holds sway over me.

I still feel like the speeches Ronald Reagan gave after the space shuttle Challenger crash in 1986 were the best of my short lifetime.

Actually he gave two speeches: one, when he scuttled his State of the Union address to reassure those of us who witnessed this horror – live, or on tape – that “you don’t back up, you don’t quit”.  The second speech was the eulogy at the Johnson Space Center where he said “their sacrifice had stirred the soul of a nation”.

President Donald Trump gave his first ‘soul-stirring’ speech Tuesday night. He didn’t insult any war heroes; even praised one. He didn’t pitch conspiracy theories about illegal votes, or mention Hilary Clinton. He didn’t even rail the news media for “fake news” and call us “enemies of the American people.”

In 5,000 words, about an hour’s worth, read mostly over teleprompter, he tried in his first time at bat to hit a home run.

“I am asking all citizens to embrace this renewal of the American spirit,” Trump read. “I am asking all members of Congress to join me in dreaming big, and bold and daring things for our country.”

Great words but a little vague.

He gave no details on how a replacement of Obamacare would work; how, precisely, tax reform would be structured or paid for; or even the functioning of his “trillion-dollar” infrastructure plan.

Republicans touted praise immediately after Trump made like a candidate, again, and glad-handed his way out the room.  THEY called the speech a home run.

Trump in many ways boxed in his Capitol Hill party mates and may be looking for Democrats to cave in.

On health care, for example, Trump called for a replacement of the Affordable Care Act that would “expand choice, increase access, lower costs and at the same time provide better health care” ― an impossible combination.

His new health-care plan, he said, would continue to insure those with preexisting conditions and use tax credits and health savings accounts to help Americans pay for them. How big would the tax credits be, sir, and who would be eligible? Trump didn’t say.

On tax reform, Trump voiced continued support for lower rates on both corporations and individuals, while adding a feature to tax imports and subsidize exports. Opponents are already lining up to blast that one.

On his trillion-dollar plan to rebuild roads, bridges and tunnels, Trump just said that it would include both public and private capital, and would create “millions of new jobs.”

And, a “compromise” on immigration reform with a pathway to legalization for undocumented immigrants like some Democrats support? ― not a word.

“Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed. Every problem can be solved,” Trump said, calling for Democrats and Republicans to get together and unite for the good of the country and the good of the American people.

Nice speech, Mr. President.  I hung on almost every word. You hit high points, but mostly low ones.

Before you think I’m blasting the Commander-In-Chief, remember what Senate minority leader Chuck Shumer of New York imparted.

“What the President says and what the President does are at opposite ends of the spectrum,” Shumer said.


Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at gene.motley@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7211.