As the larger than life Arizona senator John McCain is laid to rest yesterday, some things about him stood out. And it’s not because of the eloquent eulogies of his daughter and two former presidents.
The one I remember most is his 2008 response to a question in a town hall meeting when he was running against Barack Obama. I showed this video to my communications class at the community college last week. Not because it happened to be the week of the funeral, but to analyze the ‘Transactional model‘ of communications. The audience, can and will talk back to the speaker, so it’s important to plan for it. Do watch the clip below, and notice how McCain responds instinctively.
One of my students pointed out to the reaction of a lady in the audience on the top left of the screen – a reflection of our reaction too, as a television audience.
McCain spread a culture of decency and integrity as if a counter to our disillusionment with government and those who represent some of its branches.
Recall that 1968 song, Abraham, Martin and John? Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy embodied something that larger than themselves, as John McCain did for our times. One of the much repeated quotes of his was about standing up for “a cause greater than our self interest.”
As any teacher will tell you, the big ‘bonus’ we get at the end of the school year doesn’t involve zeros after a decimal point. Instead it is seeing the outcome of the work put in – watching students move up.
This was evident last evening, as I wrapped up the communication class, COM 225, which I taught at Chandler-Gilbert Community College. It was their final exam, one part of which was a prepared speech. Watching them put into practice material they learned over five months was the exclamation point at the end of a long chapter. The kicker, if you will. Their speeches were top-notch. Their confidence -and use of techniques learned –on full display.
Before they left, I recommended they sometime watch Randy Pausch’s ‘Last Lecture.’ Why? Because it is both an artifact or Public Speaking that embodies everything found in the text books, plus one of the most motivational messages students could take away on their journey.
Sometimes a zinger in a speech captures the essence of all the other verbiage put together.
“I get it, I get it. We’ve got to address the elephant that’s not in the room.”
(Hasan Minhaj, host of the White House Correspondent’s dinner this year.
It got better, especially with the rest of the thought aimed at president Trump who did not attend:
“The leader of our country is not here. And that’s because he lives in Moscow. It is a very long flight.
“I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”
The context was the VP debates; Dan Qayle had likened himself to JFK and was treated to a delicious zinger by Bensten.
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