Bill Clinton and Effective Style of Speech Research Proposal

Pages: 10 (2514 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Communication

Speech

Bill Clinton and His Power of Speech

While many former presidents have hit the speaking circuit as a way to stay in the public eye and make some extra cash, none have succeeded as much as Clinton, who has earned more money -- and more criticism -- than any of his predecessors.

Bill Clinton is really the biggest presidential polarizer since Richard Nixon," said political scientist Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia (CBS, 2001). "You either love him or you hate him. And there are an awful lot of people who hate him concentrated in the business class who invest."

This paper will examine what makes Bill Clinton an effective speaker, describing how he has leveraged his excellent communications skills to earn a lucrative career after post-presidency.

Pubic Speaking Skills Pay the Bills

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, a major financial institution, paid Clinton $100,000 to speak in 2001 (CBS, 2001). However, after receiving complaints from clients who believed that Clinton's personal behavior as president was unforgivable, the firm's chairman told the media that he had made a mistake in hiring Clinton as a speaker.

Regardless of how people feel about Clinton's personal life, he still fills the house when he gives a speech. Some believe that his shady history makes him all the more appealing. Former Salomon Brothers CEO John Gutfreund said (CBS, 2001), "I think some controversial people are terrific for corporate events. You really want to know what the other side is thinking."

Clinton's appearance checks are evidence that Clinton is a hot commodity, regardless of what some say.

During Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, reports revealed that the Clintons' tax returns show they have earned $109 million over the last eight years since Clinton left the White House. This figure demonstrates the major success President Clinton has a professional speaker, as most of this income came from speaking engagements. His podium fees resulted in nearly half of the family's income. Clinton's full lecture schedule, and the fact that he charges upwards of $250,000 for his speeches, resulted in almost $52 million. In fact, in 2006 he earned $450,000 for a single speech in London.

On top of his high price tag, Clinton is also hard to book. In 2007, Clinton addressed an audience of about 40,000 Michigan State University graduates in Michigan Stadium (Vosgerchian, 2007). The past several speakers lacked name recognition so the class was thrilled to welcome Clinton. However, Gary Krenz, a representative for the university, said it was not an easy achievement. He said it took over a year to secure Clinton's commitment.

These numbers prove that Clinton is one of the most successful, compelling public speakers in the world. Many believe that, while his unique biography, experiences as a U.S. president and perspective on the world certainly contribute to his appeal, these things are not what earn Clinton the money he makes for speeches. Rather, he is in such high demand because he has a unique combination of public speaking skills, charisma, and ability to entertain audiences around the world.

Skills Analysis

According to Reynolds (2006), a good presenter knows how to speak in a "human voice," meaning that he speaks directly to his audience using humor and emotion. "Good presenters emphasize logic, reasoning, and evidence, but they never forget that both they and their audience members are emotional beings," said Reynolds.

Telling stories, jokes and interacting with the audience are all ways that experienced public speakers get their points across. Clinton is a master of this and always appears to be having a good time when he presents.

During one 1996 presentation, Bill Clinton shared a genuine laugh on the podium with Boris Yeltsin. As Dan Pink (Reynolds, 2008) points out in a Whole New Mind, true laughter can have an amazing impact. "Laughter is a form of nonverbal communication that conveys empathy and that is even more contagious than the yawn," he said. In this case, Clinton's laughter was contagious. The entire room erupted in laughter.

No matter your political leanings or what part of the world you may be from, there is no denying that former U.S. President Bill Clinton is one of the most gifted communicators on the planet," said Reynolds. "There are many reasons why Mr. Clinton is so effective at the podium. Some of the aptitudes that make him so effective are his engaging, 'naked' human style, his verbal presentation of clear logic and evidence, as well as his solid storytelling skills such as providing clear examples and painting pictures with his words. Whether it is a speech or an interview, he comes across as articulate and extremely intelligent but without being aloof or pedantic."

During a 1996 speech to Georgetown University graduates, Clinton clearly spoke from notes rather than reading. This approach allowed him to stay on target while coming across as relaxed, casual and "human." He told many short stories and examples during the speech; however, they appeared to be straight from the heart rather than read from a piece of paper.

Clinton's excellent public speaking skills seem to work wonders on his audience. In some cases, the audience completely forgets the fact that he is telling them a different message than he told them a short time ago. When Hillary Clinton was pitted against Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential campaign, Bill Clinton naturally supported his wife. However, when she dropped out of the race, he was just as wholehearted in his endorsement of Obama (Telegraph, 2008).

Barack Obama is ready to lead America and restore American leadership in the world," Clinton said in a speech, openly praising the man who beat his wife to the party's nomination (Telegraph, 2008). "Barack Obama is ready to honor the oath to preserve, protect and defend the constitution. Barack Obama is ready to be president of the United States."

During this speech, he received several standing ovations, which started when Clinton entered the Pepsi Center auditorium to the strains of his 1992 campaign song: Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)." "Y'all sit down, we got to get along with the show here! Sit down! Please stop. Please sit," he told the audience as the welcome ovation lasted more than five minutes (Telegraph, 2008).

Clinton insisted he was just a "warm-up" act for Mr. Obama's newly minted vice presidential nominee, Senator Joe Biden, who was also scheduled to speak. However, as he spoke about how the time for Democratic division was over, and how the stakes were too high, with the American Dream "under siege at home" and U.S. leadership in the world "weakened," his captivated crowd seemed to forget that any other speakers would be speaking at the event.

Everything I learned in my eight years as president and in the work I have done since in America and across the globe has convinced me that Barack Obama is the man for this job," Clinton said (Telegraph, 2008). "Now, he has a remarkable ability to inspire people, to raise our hopes and rally us to high purpose. He has the intelligence and curiosity every successful president needs."

This was considered quite a powerful speech for a man who had, just weeks earlier, called Obama's opposition to the Iraq war a "fairy tale," who had belittled his success among African-American voters (Telegraph, 2008). With his wife out of the running, Clinton used his flawless public speaking techniques to make the crowd forget his prior words and focus on his new agenda -- getting Obama elected.

Comparing the Clintons

Clinton's skills are even more obvious when compared to a less-skilled public speaker. During Hillary Clinton's campaign, she struggled with comparisons to her husband. Bill Clinton is largely respected as one of the best public speakers alive today. Therefore, it was only natural that she would measure up unfavorably.

Like her husband, Hillary Rodham Clinton can work a room, remembering names and personal details, and dazzling acquaintances along the way. And like Bill Clinton, she can master arcane details of public policy, wowing experts in several fields," said Hernandez (2006). "But as a public speaker, Hillary Rodham Clinton is no Bill Clinton, and that became all too apparent at Coretta Scott King's funeral last week, when the two made a rare public appearance together."

In a New York Times article, Hernandez described how the crowd burst into boisterous applause and a standing ovation when Bill Clinton took the stage and delivered his address. On the podium, he spoke casually and some said he reminded them of a preacher. However, when Hillary Clinton took the stage, the room became more subdued. This was because her tone was deliberate, formal and measured.

While come believe that Hillary Clinton's style is unique and respectable, others compare her harshly to Bill Clinton. They say she lacks his ability to move people with the power of his speech. "She doesn't have the theatrical instinct that he has," said former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo. "She is more a Methodist, and he is more… [END OF PREVIEW]

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