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THEY SPOKE AND I LISTEN



As you are reading, I am celebrating today's holiday. And it inspired me to contemplate my favorite speeches.


And so, even though January 15 belongs to Martin Luther King, his celebration made me think of other people I admire in the political field. All of my top three speeches were written by the speakers who delivered them. And I like that.

I never fully embraced the "speech writers".


I will start with Vaclav Havel, the former President of the Czech Republic. He has all of my admiration: a person who sacrificed his freedom, comfort and career to fight oppression of Communist regime, He had enticing offers from every major Western country to safely relocate (and the Commies would happily deliver him), but he chose to stay and fight. And he prevailed: It was him who delivered the most important sentence the Czech nation could have hoped for. It was on November 27, 1989 when from the balcony of an old Art Nouveau building on the Wenceslas Square he told several hundred thousand people that "The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia forfeited its power and its practices are considered to violate our constitution".

And then, he became our beloved President: Humble, courageous, educated, ethical, kind, polite, and a true visionary.

One of my favorite speeches was the one delivered in the American Congress in 1990. Here is a small excerpt:


"The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and in human responsibility.


Without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness, nothing will change for the better in the sphere of our being as humans. [...] In other words, we still don't know how to put morality ahead of politics, science and economics. We are still incapable of understanding that the only genuine backbone of all our actions, if they are to be moral, is responsibility.

Responsibility to something higher than my family, my country, my company, my success -- responsibility to the order of being where all our actions are indelibly recorded and where and only where they will be properly judged."




And then I love, as do many of you, that famous speech delivered on August 28, of 1963 to 250,000 people in Washington D.C. by Martin Luther King.


I value Martin Luther King's vision, purpose, bravery, determination, perseverance, his intelligence. I enjoy his charisma, complemented  with non-aggression,  kind manners, passion that is not fanatical, but genuine; I admire his way with words, parading his education, his directness, his poetic side that permeates the speeches appealing to both: Intellectuals as well as the ordinary people, Black people, white or any other race.


His speech "I have a Dream '' revolves around the problem of Black people, but it is naturally universal for any oppressed.  His message is built on several simple but beautiful visions expressed as  straightforward wishes:  We hear them and we nod to a wish that children of all colors should  play together, and so much  we nod and wish  for freedom ringing in every town and every  village.  


His use of anafora, the rhetorical device repeating the beginning of a sentence at the beginning of the next,  is employed so effectively that even though it is predictable after several lines, we want to hear it again and again as if it gave us not only hope, the feeling we are not alone, but also  strength. The power of words at its best. 


"So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring. 

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!" 


My last speech I cherish is President  Abraham Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address delivered on November 19, 1863.


Whenever my family goes to the Rosecrans Cemetery in Point Loma, we always read aloud the Gettysburg Address that is displayed there under an old beautifully shaped tree.  One of us reads aloud and the rest is listening. We must have heard it 100 plus times, and I am always moved and inspired.


"It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."


I am inspired by these speeches and their writers: people who re true visionaries, beacons of better tomorrow, pillars of humanity, people who inspire us to be better, to try harder, to protect freedom with sincere care, and thus keep us on the sunny side of the street.



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