Here in Washington, DC, people might pay a little more attention to the annual State of the Union address than elsewhere. In our case, it’s only a few blocks away and our street gets extra traffic because of security roadblocks closer to the Capitol. Looking out my office window, I can see the light on in the dome that indicates Congress is in session.
If you watched the SOTU address, what is it that you remember? And why is that important for you as a speaker?
First off all, there’s lots of pomp and tradition connected with the address, along with a certain way of acting the part, whoever you are in the House Chamber. After all, body language and the visuals surrounding an address are important. So the President comes down the aisle smiling and shaking hands. Even House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who’s not known for supporting the President’s agenda, comes down behind him smiling and shaking hands. It’s all part of the political theatre.
But then comes the address itself. As in every year, with every President, there are a lot of policy statements and promises. Frankly, how many of them do you remember? There was talk of minimum wage, energy independence, preschool education, etc. etc.
But what do you really remember? Wasn’t it the story about Army Ranger Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg? It was a moving story, about survival and hardship overcome (and still being overcome), and it spoke to the heart.
It was a story.
From that whole, hour-long speech full of policy initiatives that, if enacted, could change millions of people’s lives, we were most moved by an honest, heart-felt story about one person overcoming adversity.
Think about that next time you put a talk together…