20 Nov THE TALKING AMERICAN TALIBAN
I have been coaching speakers of all kinds, from all walks of life, from every continent, from every age bracket, from every economic strata, and from every social class for more than 45 years. I have coached through times of peace and times or war. I have coached on topics of great and grave public consequence, and on topics of intimate and personal concern. I have coached speakers of the highest public personality and purpose, and speakers whose purpose in life was survival. I am a teacher. I am a coach. I am a guide. I am a motivator. I am a listener. I am a professional. I am very concerned.
The current level of speaking and listening regarding the expression of opinion on matters in the public domain, including opinion about people in the public domain in our beloved country is alarming, very alarming. Those people in the “public domain” whose individual career, personality and income is fed by the attention and commentary, good or bad, pleasant or putrid, are not my concern. Those people whose courage and commitment to the service of other human beings puts them into the “public domain” are my concern. Chief among these currently is our President of The United States of America, Barack Obama.
Now, I am quite aware of, and accepting of, the need for public criticism of public politicians, especially The POTUS. In fact, public criticism of The POTUS is a constructive part of the democratic process. Criticism of public policies, programs, and philosophies is an essential contribution to be made by the loyal opposition, no matter which party is in power. Such criticism is also very valuable when it comes from the “public”. It is also part of the democratic way of life that we cherish.
It serves as a valuable contribution to ” The American Way”. So, why am I very concerned?
I am concerned, disappointed, embarrassed, frightened, and angry about the type and amount of vitriol and sleazy speech we are hearing about The POTUS. No, not because I am a registered Democrat. I am not. No, not because I voted for Obama, and that is none of your business. Commentary and criticism have turned into condemnation and threats. The current spate of racial epithets and curses spewed about our POTUS and supported and justified with quotes from the bible have risen to a frightening level. I am hearing and seeing what can only be referred to as the American Taliban. It is made up of those who use religion as a basis for their remarks. Isn’t that exactly what the Taliban and Al Qaeda do when then try to justify their vile and murderous treatment of other human beings by citing the Koran? There is no difference. The fact that these members of the American Taliban are “citizens” of this country does not give them the right to threaten our POTUS.
As disgusting and un-American I believe this type of speech to be, I am a defender of the right to free speech, which we cherish in our country. However, it seems to have reached a new low, a low that I cannot recall over my 45 years as a speech coach. Of most concern is the fuel that it puts on the fire within those persons who are not able to self contain their dislike of others and who look to responsible leaders for guidance on how to express their dislike. Of special concern is this propensity for using religious justification and citations from holy books to explain and claim the right to do harm both physical and psychological. It has reached a pitch that cannot be ignored. These American Taliban members must not be ignored. They are not just a bunch of crazies. The are not just ” on the lunatic fringe”. We have always had those among us. This new brand of mongers come from and are supported by those who would be seen as “respectable” citizens. The fact is, they are hiding in plain sight. They are as dangerous as the Taliban found in foreign countries. They are the religious zealots on the right and the left.
I am writing these words to urge each and every person who loves America, who loves the freedoms we have, who loves and respects the separation of church and state, who sees the horror and pain that has been inflicted in the name of religion, to speak out. Do not simply ignore these people. Do not write them off as crazies. They are dangerous. We have had too many Timothy McVeigh’s in our lifetime. Be a good citizen. Exercise YOUR right to free speech. Do not be afraid to defend the freedoms so many have fought and died for. Whether you like his politics or not, defend The POTUS. Defend the Presidency. It is representative of the American way of life. Be part of that life. Be the loyal opposition. In this case, oppose the vile and degrading comments that are being made about our President, our Presidency. Help protect, preserve, and propagate the productive speech that has made this great country what it is.
Dr. Dennis Becker
by Dr. Dennis Becker, CEO, The Speech Improvement Company
When Robert Kennedy was murdered, like a lot of people, I was devastated. To me, he represented the most hope for bridging the gap between the haves and the have-nots in our society. Of course, I was particularly impassioned by his fight for the civil rights issue. He had the ability to both reach out and to point the way at the same tie. His communication prowess was an inspiration to me and my work as a Communication Coach.
At that time, I was also President of the New England Speech Association. On behalf of the association and as a citizen, I wrote a letter of condolence to Bobby’s brother, Edward (Ted) Kennedy. I’m certain that he received many, many such letters. To my amazement I received a personal reply from Teddy (as we all came to know him). It was a warm letter, thanking me for my expression and and encouraging me to carry on what his brother (s) stood for. He signed it in ink, Edward Kennedy.
He and his brothers John and Robert will always be a living example of why and how important it is for all of us to learn to speak and listen to others, especially those who are different and less fortunate than ourselves. I will continue, in my life, to carry their example of good communication.
Here are some inspiring words Ted spoke at his brother Robert’s funeral in 1968, which so resonate today:
“That is the way he lived. That is what he leaves us.
My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.
Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will someday come to pass for all the world.
As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him:
“Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.”
“This question presupposes what to most of society is a given. Speaking to groups is a scary proposition. In fact, it is one of the most prominent fears of all humans. Each survey that is taken places it in the top three, almost every single time. It would be interesting for you to ask a few friends if they feel nervous or fearful about speaking before groups. I’m sure you’ll get mixed replies, of course. One thing you’ll notice, even from those who express little or no fear, is a caution. You will hear statements like ‘It depends on who’s in the group,’ and ‘Well, only some groups.’
It’s not uncommon to hear of career opportunities that have been passed by because they require ‘public speaking.’ It’s not only anxiety about groups. It is also common to find that the anxiety extends to certain types of individuals such as those in positions of authority, or people who are more senior, or, perhaps, people who have different cultures, etc. The fear can be triggered by many things.
So, how do we help people to control that fear? I am not using the term ‘overcome’ to describe the outcome. The very word ‘overcome’ can be too compelling. It can put too much pressure on sufferers to eliminate the fear. So, we strive to gain control over it. This is not a capitulation. It is a recognition that each person will go as far as is needed to regain control over the experience of speaking to groups.
As Speech Coaches for The Speech Improvement Company, we bring 45 years of experience to this effort. We recognize that there are two popular methods for ‘treating’ fear of speaking. They are Visualization and Cognitive Restructuring. Over the years, we have utilized each of these. However, by far we have found most positive results with the Skills approach. That is, we help clients identify and understand exactly what it is that triggers the fear. Then we introduce specific skills to fill any void in the ability to combat that trigger. This process eventually leads to the elimination of the fear inducing triggers. It has been very successful.”