Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Election Night Speeches Have Great Healing Power

Election night speeches have tremendous power to heal, and they will have special impact in what has been an awful, embarrassing presidential campaign. There is so much that we have taken for granted that has been turned on its head. (I feel so badly for people for whom this is their first election.) While I’ve always said the best communicator wins, there has been so much tumult generated from so many different directions, I honestly change my mind about who is doing a better job from one day to the next… sometimes during the course of a single day!

I veer from sure to shaken.

So instead of identifying who is likely to win based on who I think is the better communicator, I’ve decided to move on to the election night speeches the candidates will deliver when the election results are in and the power they each have to move us forward from our current, depressing circumstance.

These election night speeches are critically important, both in substance and style. With this terrible campaign as a backdrop, they will be more important than ever before, for the country, indeed for the world.

So here is what both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump must do in their election night speeches whether they win or lose.  By observing them, we can learn a lot about leadership, particularly the roles grace and dignity play.

The mark of a true leader is someone who can give voice to the people he or she leads. When a candidate wins a US presidential election, it’s possible less than a majority will have voted for that person. Of the majority, many will vote not because they like a candidate, but because they dislike the opponent more, therefore limiting further who can be counted as a solid supporter.

But when a winner is decided, especially in a non-incumbent year, the ground immediately shifts beneath us all. For many in the opposing camp, it feels more like a earthquake measuring 7 on the Richter scale.

So it may seem as if the winner has a bigger lift than the loser, but I think they both have an equal, as well as awesome responsibility.

They must both exhibit signs of dignity and grace. The language of inclusiveness, of love, even, should be front and center, and not just for one’s own supporters, but for all the people.

The winner in particular must primarily show heartfelt compassion for the supporters of the loser, if not necessarily for the loser him or herself. (It would be nice, but unlikely given the personal animus between the candidates this time.)

The loser must communicate faith in the system and respect for the people’s decision. This is to ensure the peaceful transfer of power, a uniquely beautiful part of the American system.

Additionally, the winner should..

  • Keep it short. I’d advise no longer than 15 minutes. Obama spoke longer than that, but our attention spans have shortened since then. Besides, in terms of eloquence and public speaking technique, he’s a hard act to follow and neither Clinton nor Trump has his chops.
  • Thank every American who participated – whomever they voted for – followed by those who are closest, then the team.
  • Acknowledge the other side, that it was a hard fought campaign. Show grace in winning by promising to listen to and work with the loyal opposition.
  • Speak truthfully about conflicts and disagreements, but tie it into our freedoms.
  • Convey hope for the future and confidence about our ability to get there,
  • Exhibit a little self-directed humor.
  • Speak from the heart.

And, the loser should…

  •  Keep it very short. 5 minutes is enough.
  • Convey the selection of a president is bigger than any one person or campaign.
  • Acknowledge the loss and affirm it was fair and square.
  • Thank supporters, family, and team.
  • Show grace and dignity in losing by going quickly and quietly and don’t return to public life for a good, long time. The country needs to heal and adjust.

With passions running so high, t’s difficult to imagine how much can be accomplished with a solid, heartfelt, dignified, and graceful speech, especially after such a horrid and, frankly, disgraceful campaign. But we’ll all have a chance to see, hopefully Tuesday evening, that powerful speech can heal deep wounds. I’m certain of it. It’s actually the only thing I’m certain of when it comes to this election.

Bad Publicity vs. NO Publicity: Presidential Campaign Lessons

We’re finally down to two. The last ones standing. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. And one will become President of the United States.  

After all the primary debates and most recently, the conventions, the campaigns have begun the slog toward Election Day. On the one hand, you have Clinton, who cannot seem to get out of her own way when it comes to dealing with the screw-ups of the past and Trump, who has not encountered a criticism he should not respond to. It’s reported they are the most disliked candidates in history.

And there are still 3 months to go!

So, is it really true that the only bad publicity is no publicity? Is it better to be talked about than ignored, regardless of what’s being said?

It’s complicated.

Let’s start with Hillary Clinton. In her case, bad publicity has a decidedly negative impact. The reason why goes something like this: Bad news sticks when it 1) undermines the core argument you make about yourself or 2) supports the core argument the opposition would have people believe about you.

Clinton promotes herself as experienced, knowledgeable, a steady hand, a hard worker. Therefore, it’s logical to assume a knowledgeable, experienced person would know that using a personal email server for state and often highly confidential business could create significant problems. So the actions contradict her message. (NOTE: I am not judging, only observing.) They undermine what she’d like us to believe about her and give ammunition to the opposition in their efforts to derail her candidacy by sticking her with the “poor judgment” label.

But what about Donald Trump? Have his choices undermined his candidacy? Not yet. Trump promotes himself as a business expert, strong, and not politically correct. Furthermore, he has trained the public over many years to expect little from him in terms of behaving within the usual boundaries of polite discourse. One powerful result is he is not held to that standard. He is vulnerable, of course, but he’s been very successful so far at protecting himself from news that could undermine his claims of business prowess, such as his tax returns. This also cleverly plays right into the political incorrectness theme and keeps him in the news because although it isn’t required, it’s traditional for candidates to release their returns for public evaluation, so pushing back against tradition fits.

There is one advantage for Hillary Clinton: Bad news that has come her way in recent days has not stuck because Trump is sucking up all the media space.  

So what’s the answer? Is it true that the only thing worse than bad publicity is NO publicity? Right now, if you’re Hillary Clinton, the answer is no and if you’re Donald Trump, the answer is yes.

Like I said, it’s complicated.

Words Matter. How Evil Is Communicated

“Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.”

This is the old schoolyard response to name-calling and other taunts. Today, we’d call it bullying. I don’t believe it’s an accurate or appropriate response any longer.

What I want to do today is to explain how words, skillfully used, change how we think and ultimately, how we behave. We must be aware so we can remain in charge of our thoughts and actions vs. allowing others to take charge.

I last wrote about this in 2011, when Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman, was one of several who were shot by a gunman at a political event. At the time, my critique was that words and language we’d been using in our political and public discourse had impacted, even encouraged the perpetrator.

Language is tricky. Its meaning can hide, and, in the wrong hands, cause someone to commit murder. There is an example of this happening right now and we must know about so we can stop it before it’s too late.

Yes, I’m referring to the language being used (or not used) by Trump. Not only is there a tremendous amplification due to the growth of social media and his use of it, but his language is even more explicit and poisonous than what has been used to date by other politicians. It is a cynical effort to co-opt a group of fellow citizens, the vast majority of whom should be respected, but not encouraged.

Words are the vehicles of persuasion and they have great power. If you have any doubt about this, see the big advertisers, who all spend billions to find just the right words and phrases to pitch their products and services. The result of repeatedly hearing these billion-dollar messages over months or years is that even skeptics eventually find themselves slipping into buying mode.

There is a big difference however, between an advertiser who sells soap that contains “1/4 moisturizing cream” or promises a car characterized as “the ultimate driving machine,” and a political candidate, like Trump, who says things like,

“I’ll beat the crap out of you.”
“I’d like to punch him in the face.”
“Maybe he should have been roughed up.”

With the former, lives aren’t in danger. No one’s going to go into that supermarket or car dealership and start shooting because he disagrees with that message. But it is a fact that some individuals listening to certain political messages delivered by a man they see as their leader and even hero, will act on them.

(Something to notice and be hyper-aware of: Trump himself never gets dirty. He prefers others do his dirty work for him. This is cowardice personified.)

I said earlier that Trump voters and supporters must be respected and I mean that. Regardless of what I think of Trump and his hateful and inflammatory language, he has spoken some important truths. Among them are that too many people in our country have been shafted and have lost any hope of bettering their lives and the lives of their families. Politicians and government have largely been at fault. Our immigration system is broken and must be fixed soon. I can understand how promises to deport people who’ve overstayed their visas resonate; it is unfair. Last, but not least, terrorism feels like the new normal as evidenced by the horrific attacks in Europe and the one in San Bernardino. It is so very frightening and must be attended to.

Another observation: Trump’s language and presentation fall against the backdrop of the last 7 years of President Obama’s style. With respect to the president, he has always been of the mind that he shouldn’t have to sell his point of view, that it is somehow beneath him. He refuses to be the “daddy-in-chief” even when we need him to be. It is one of his great failings as a communicator and leader and the rise of a Trump is a stark reminder and rejoinder.

The Trump voters are multi-faceted, of course, but many of them seem to share the following:


These form the perfect recipe for his incendiary rhetoric. If I put myself in the shoes of someone feeling these emotions, I might want to “beat the crap” out of someone. And if I were inclined to become physical, I might act on it. Here is what I know for sure: The vast majority of people will not act. But it only takes a few in a crowded arena, egged on by their so-called “leader,” and overtaken by group dynamics (mob mentality), to inflict a lot of damage and maybe even death.

Of course, demonizing the “other” and threatening, coded language didn’t start with Trump. It has long been used by those who are most evil to foment violence. Trump might not quite reach the level of evil (not yet), but I would characterize him as wicked. Trump knows better, as one must to be as successful as he has been, which is what makes him all the more odious.

That he makes such vicious and provocative statements, then denies them while softening his tone, or pivots to a subject of his choice so masterfully that even seasoned reporters don’t know what hit them takes planning, aforethought, and lots and lots of practice. Something else I am certain of.

There is nothing that can be done about him. He is lost.

But we are not lost. We can all do something. We can identify and understand his techniques, apply this understanding and recognize that only the cowardly and insecure lead the way he does. We can be more self-aware. We can temper our feelings and behaviors. We can ask ourselves soul-searching questions: Is this how I treat my neighbor? Is this how I would want my neighbor to treat me?

All of us. All of us.

Truth: Our country does need some revolutionary thinking and courageous leadership. The people who have been in power for decades have failed us miserably. The current crop of candidates are, as usual, uniformly weak and co-opted by interests of one type or another, yet, one of them will be the next president. This is sad, but not wicked.

Our only choice is to demand change, to use some of the best communication techniques to beat the Trumps of the world at their own game:

1. Carefully select a leader to give us voice lest we destroy what  our
forefathers created.
2. Create a strong message that resonates.
3. Hound them until they get it done.

God help us if it’s a demagogue like Donald J. Trump.