06 September 2012

Bill Clinton's Philosophy of Progress

Everyone says that Bill Clinton is a great speaker. And of course they're right. But this ability of his to deliver such a great speech is not separate from his worldview: it emerges from it.

It's worth remembering his great story telling and emotional connection with the audience rests on a worldview that writes his speeches. One reason that Clinton's speeches do so much is that he knows that speeches, alone, can't do much. A speech is no substitute for a worldview. Until you have an effective understanding of your audience, the world you share, and the arc of history, you can't deliver a speech that not only connects to your audience but makes them feel connected.

Last night, in just a few words, Clinton shared the essence of his world view. For Clinton, economic progress is moral. It is not just the right thing to help a mother to feed and educate her child. It turns out that this mother's child, properly helped, is more likely to become a productive, innovative adult able to create prosperity for the next generation. His worldview appeals to both emotion and reason and it resonates with our own experience and the data "out there." The speech works because the worldview aligns emotion, experience, data, and hope.  If your worldview misses any of these elements, it doesn't matter what your teleprompter says or how well you deliver it: your speech won't do what Bill Clinton's speeches do.

Here is President Clinton from last night (5 September 2012):

The Republican narrative is that all of us who amount to anything are completely self-made.  
One of our greatest Democratic Chairmen, Bob Strauss, used to say that every politician wants you to believe he was born in a log cabin he built himself, but it ain’t so. 
We Democrats think the country works better with a strong middle class, real opportunities for poor people to work their way into it and a relentless focus on the future, with business and government working together to promote growth and broadly shared prosperity.  We think “we’re all in this together” is a better philosophy than “you’re on your own.” 
Who’s right?  Well since 1961, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24.  In those 52 years, our economy produced 66 million private sector jobs.  What’s the jobs score?  Republicans 24 million, Democrats 42 million! 
It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics, because discrimination, poverty and ignorance restrict growth, while investments in education, infrastructure and scientific and technological research increase it, creating more good jobs and new wealth for all of us.

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