Dear Marketplace Friend,
It's probably happened to me 20 times in the last 20 years. It usually happens after a religious event -
frequently, church - where I've been upfront, at the pulpit.
A youngish person comes to me, looks me in the eye and says, "I want to be a speaker. You're doing
what I want to do. How can I get my start?"
Here's my most-likely response: "What do you have to say?" Every single time I've experienced that
interaction, the conversation has stopped. They think it's about the speaking; I believe it's about the
message. Speaking is the delivery system... but, unless you have something of value to deliver, it makes little
sense to develop the delivery system.
People are talking, constantly. Important people are talking constantly. When it's an important
person doing the talking, there's likely a recorder running, archiving what they have to say. With zillions of
hours of tape - from thousands of sources - it's interesting how few speeches have become memorable.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, the morning after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, "...a day that will live in
infamy." Winston Churchill reinforcing the spirit of the British people during the German buzz-bomb
assaults: "Never, never, never quit." John F. Kennedy intoning in his inaugural address that classic line: "Ask
not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." Ronald Reagan, at the still-standing
Berlin Wall: "Tear this wall down!"
And... by Martin Luther King, Jr.: "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up (and) live out the true meaning of its creed." The Dream Speech is a textbook example of communication expertise at its best...
There is no public address that can compete with a church-savvy African American pulpiteer who is
energized by his - or, her - message and his/her audience. The black church has been the training ground for
the orators who can move heart and soul, heaven and earth, to get a crowd on their feet and a movement on
its way. Proof? Martin Luther King, Jr., in Washington, at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1968. Nearly forty years later, and it remains one of the most compelling addresses of the last 100 years.
King wasn't a speaker; he was a leader who could speak. Leaders don't command everyone's loyalty...
but they certainly command respect for their craft. In The Master's Program environment, we say that
leaders are people who bring vision, strategy and assignments into a group. King had a vision - a "dream" -
and his strategies were constantly in view. Thousands of people who embraced his leadership allowed him to
give them assignments - a place to be, a job to do - to pursue his strategies, in alignment with his vision. He
has been dead for a lifetime, but his message is still echoing around America.
Great speakers are people with a profound message, delivered in the right spirit to the right people at
the right time. They aren't reading lines; they are capturing the human spirit with a bullís eye that hits the
They'll probably never declare your birthday - or, mine - a national holiday, but that doesn't mean
that we can't achieve memorable status through the right thing, said to the right person at the right time,
with the right intention. What do you have to say, for someone else?
Find a person who lacks the assurance of heaven through faith in Jesus Christ. What can you say to
them that would make you memorable? Here's Paul's insight; "...for, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the
Lord will be saved.' How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe
in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And
how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good
news!'" (Romans 10:13-15).
As a speaker, I have a great appreciation for King's extraordinary "Dream" speech. As a man headed
for heaven, I have an even greater appreciation for Paul Alleman's message on May 11th, 1958... when he
told a five year old kid (me) everything he needed to know to find heaven.