Pomp and Circumstance

Trending now is Graduation Speech Bingo for about-to-be graduates to play during the long, hot hours sitting in commencement caps and gowns with giddy parents watching their every move. The game is to see how many trite phrases are used: find your passion, it starts with us, today is the first day of the rest of your life.

Here are some examples and exceptions:

 

Photo Courtesy of: Entrepreneur.com

Will Ferrell, University of Southern California  2017

Comedian Will Ferrell humorously recounted his early failures in a light-hearted commencement speech at University of Southern California. Providing graduates with a sense of comfort and reassurance, he ended with a butchered imitation of the late Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love you.”

 

Photo Courtesy of: AJC.com

Hillary Clinton, Wellesly College 2017

Former Secretary of State and Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton explained that life doesn’t always go according to plan, but that’s not a valid reason to give up on your dreams. Secretary Clinton was on the same stage 48 years earlier as a student speaker conveying the same message; to stand up and fight for what you believe.

 

Photo Courtesy of: CNBC.com

Mark Zuckerberg, Harvard University 2017

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook co-founder and Harvard University dropout, poked fun at himself with…“If I get through this speech, it’ll be the first time I actually finish something at Harvard.”

 

Photo Courtesy of: GettyImages.com

President Donald Trump, Liberty University 2017

President Donald Trump lashed out at the media during the US Coast Guard Academy commencement with “no politician in history has been treated worse or more unfairly.” And again at Liberty Christian University, he reflected on his own persistence with “never ever give up”…without crediting Winston Churchill’s six words of success “never never never never give up.”

 

Photo Courtesy of: Notey.com

Dame Helen Mirren, Tulane University 2017

Dame Helen Mirren related to her college audience with “like a hangover, neither triumphs nor disasters last forever.”

 

 

 

Republicans as Terrorists?

With the ninety-fifth anniversary of women gaining the right to vote, Hillary Clinton addressed the subject of women’s equality, by comparing her Republican opponents to terrorists.

Ms. Clinton said, “Now, extreme views about women, we expect that from some of the terrorist groups, we expect that from people who don’t want to live in the modern world, but it’s a little hard to take from Republicans who want to be the president of the United States. Yet they espouse out of date, out of touch policies. They are dead wrong for 21st century America. We are going forward, we are not going back.”

Photo courtesy of bgr.com

Photo courtesy of bgr.com

 

With such loaded language, Ms. Clinton diverted attention away from her views and onto her opponents. Jeb Bush later responded on Twitter by posting, “@HillaryClinton compares pro-life Americans to terrorists, but defends despicable Planned Parenthood treatment of unborn? Her priorities are totally wrong.”

While Ms. Clinton’s end goal of featuring herself as a progressive woman candidate for president was obvious, her execution was erroneous.  She could have focused on women’s rights without taking such a harsh and distracting jab at Republicans, which became the outrageous headline.

In both presentation skills and media training at READY FOR MEDIA, we advise clients to avoid loaded and negative words which can distract an audience and detract from your message.

It’s Easy When You Know the Answers

There’s an old saying among trial lawyers: “Never ask a question (of a witness) to which you don’t already know the answer.” On the other hand, no one should face the court of public opinion via the media or audiences in person, without first asking and answering for yourself the obvious questions.

Case, in point, Jeb Bush, presumptive Republican presidential candidate, brother of past-president George W. Bush, was caught off-guard in recent weeks and repeatedly contradicted himself in a number of public appearances failing to have a clear and concise answer on how he would have handled Iraq.

Photo courtesy of redstate.com

Photo courtesy of redstate.com

 

When asked if “knowing what we know now” — that U.S. intelligence was faulty and Saddam Hussein didn’t have weapons of mass destruction (WMD) — he would have invaded Iran, the former Florida Governor responded in the affirmative.

But then in the days following the interview, Bush insisted that he “misinterpreted” the question and corrected himself. “Knowing what we know now,” he would not have invaded Iraq.

Mr. Bush and his advisors would have done well to have asked and answered that question in media training before the inquiring minds of the media addressed it. In like manner, declared presidential Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton should by now have an answer to questions regarding her husband, former President Bill Clinton’s well-publicized affair during his term in office.

The goal of professional media training is not to predict all the questions, but to help a client craft answers to predictable questions. As a wise father once said to his daughter’s complaint that a test was hard, “it’s easy when you know the answers.”