• Lillie Burke

OPINION: Talk like a politician

Watching the recent presidential debates and keeping track of media coverage both socially and professionally in the aftermath, one can’t help but notice the public disinterest in the roundabout way politicians speak.

The politicians who “say what they’re thinking” and dispense with “political jargon” are being hailed by many as the front runners on the campaign trail, while those who employ more stereotypical methods are criticized for avoiding questions, for going over their allotted time, for being “too political.”

Now, imagine a world where we all spoke like that, intent on long discourses and indirect answers. A world where public speaking isn’t a skill but a lifestyle.

How could it go wrong?

Picture this: You’re sitting in class, when the teacher, exasperated, asks “Did any of you do the assigned reading?”

“I’m going to answer your question,” you say, as the student nominated to speak for the class. “But first I’d like to look at the overarching facts behind this question. The facts are very simple. I think all of us would agree that reading was assigned for this class on this day. And yet, the most recent poll shows that only 83 percent of did not do the reading. Eighty-three percent. That’s an important statistic, and I think all of us– at this point– can agree that this was possibly a grave mistake on our part.”

Or better yet, petitioning a parking ticket.

“Well, I think the key word in your argument here is ‘improper.’ And that’s true. Taking up four parking spaces with my Smart car was improper. It was an inconvenience to my fellow students at a pivotal parking hour, but I think we must also consider the immense talent it required to take up so much room with a vehicle that’s only marginally bigger than a bicycle. You have witnessed what I consider one of my greatest achievements.”

“Look, none of this is easy. None of us has all the answers. But as a motorist, I performed a miracle. It was about leadership. It was about principle. It was not about parking.”

In-class presentations would become significantly easier with imposed time limits; if you’re lucky, you may not even have to present at all.

“Each student will get one minute to present as much information as humanly possible on the topic and 30 seconds for follow-ups and rebuttals. I’ll give students time to respond if they have been singled out for criticism,” your chemistry teacher would say. “Mark, you go first.”

“My father was born and raised here in Nashville, the son of one of the city’s very first baristas. Two of his four siblings ended up lawyers in Nevada. My mother is from Ohio and came to Tennessee in search of a country music dream like anyone els–”

“Music students,” the teacher would slap her hand on her desk. “Do you have a rebuttal?”

And of course, the world would erupt in chaos as the whole class would begins talking at once.

Personally, I’d be excited to live in such a world, to go to class in such a world, to spend approximately three hours of every day ordering a cup of coffee in such a world.

Or, that is to say, “If anyone knows how to do that, I’d be willing to listen. And if they can, you know, specify exactly how that’s going to be done and at what cost, and if it sounds reasonable, then I think it’s worth discussing.”

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