Archive for the ‘Speeches’ Category

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Hillary’s One Weird Trick for Dealing with Interruptions!

September 28, 2016
Ever since the debate, the ThinkPiece Industrial Complex* has been in overdrive, pointing out that what seems so galling here – that he spoke 2/3 of the time while she patiently, politely, humored him, that he interrupted her no less than 51 times when she finally had a chance to speak – is a reality American women negotiate every day. And it’s true – study after study establishes that men dominate conversation time, in real life and in media. Again and again there’s proof that both men AND women interrupt women much more frequently than they interrupt men. To say nothing of the reality that qualified women are so often competing to be heard over men who have no idea WTF they are talking about. Heck, just a couple of weeks ago, the internet was ablaze with the One Weird Trick Women Used to be Heard in the Obama Administration, proving that even when women ARE invited into the Room Where It Happens by men who overtly value their insights, they still have to develop strategies to make sure these men HEAR THEM and give them credit for their own ideas over the deafening din of assumptions and expectations and implicit bias.
What fascinates me, though, is that we noticed at all, and why. Why, if this is so much a part of our culture, are we all suddenly talking about it? Why did so many men note what an amazing accomplishment it is that Hillary did not explode in anger and frustration, if it is true that we are conditioned to expect women to be polite, to not even notice that men always dominate the conversations?
Part of it was the stage, of course. We have the first woman who is seriously contending for the presidency of the United States, running against not just a man, but a man who embodies the sick misogynist false ideal of hyper-masculinity. The “strongman” bully who derides opponents as losers, who equates strength with aggression, who promises order through physical intimidation and violence. But I think the answer goes beyond that. We didn’t just notice how unacceptable his behavior was because of the stark contrast.
We noticed because she didn’t cave. When it was officially his turn to speak, she let him speak, with admirable grace (grace modifying her patience, NOT his speech!). A patience that yes, many women practice all the time. But we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all if that were her whole reaction. No, we *noticed,* we’re *talking* about this, because she did something else far more novel. Men everywhere interrupt women – but until last night, very few of us had seen what it looks like when the interrupted woman just *goes right on speaking.*
We noticed his interrupting because she didn’t cede the floor. If she had, all of our cultural assumptions would have come rushing in to fill the void, and we would have seen him as strong, would have accepted the interruption as his taking control of the conversation. But she didn’t do that. She didn’t lash out, she didn’t get angry, but she almost never acknowledged his outbursts in any way – she just kept talking, with the result that his interruptions didn’t look like a confident man controlling the conversation, they looked petulant and  childish and rude. On a few occasions, she replied directly to what he’d said – but then she held on to the floor, returning seamlessly to her original point. She didn’t let him derail her, she didn’t let him dominate her. She had a fearlessness that comes from having dealt with so much more crap in her career than any of us can imagine, and the poise that comes from truly trusting herself in that moment. She made us see him as a buffoon. The debate highlighted, finally, how unacceptable our cultural norm is. And Hillary showed us what it looks like when we have the clout, and the moxie, to hold our own.
The women of the Obama administration showed us how to be heard – have each other’s backs, amplify each other’s ideas, keep repeating and giving credit where it’s due until the men finally hear you. And last night, Hillary taught us the secret to dealing with interruptions: just keep talking. Own your right to that microphone, shake it off, and say what you came to say: don’t let anyone derail you when it’s YOUR TIME. Easier said than done – but oh, it can be done.

* I wish I remember who came up with this phrase, in response to Beyoncé’s “Lemonade,” but I can sadly only say it isn’t mine.

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The Great Communicator

December 17, 2012

I’m trying to put my thoughts together, in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut massacre. For most of the weekend, my feelings were best summed up by this article from The Onion:

“Well, I suppose we have to try to pick up the pieces and make some sort of sense of this tragedy and—you know what? Fuck it, I can’t do this,” said Connecticut resident Michael Zaleski, his remarks understandable given the circumstances, because, holy shit, what else can one say? “I’m sorry, but I can’t fucking do this. Can you? Can anyone?”

Only that bit of satire came close to expressing the horror and helplessness we all felt in the wake of this senseless, senseless tragedy. Looking for solutions beyond memes seemed impossible. And into this void stepped President Obama, doing what only a President can – expressing the feelings of the nation, mourning deeply, but demanding better. His remarks at a memorial yesterday laid the necessary foundation for the discussion we have to have, moving forward. If you haven’t heard his full speech, you owe it to yourself to give it the full 18 minutes; it’s a powerful, moving place to start.

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In Which I am Twelve

September 21, 2012

Procrastinated on posting about my head-exploding; it’ll have to wait for next week. I’m not up for ranting today. Instead, enjoy the awesome Jill Biden’s freudian gestures cracking up her audience … and no one is more amused than Joe. I love these two, even more than I love a good inadvertent dick joke.

Can you imagine Ann and Mitt Romney cracking up in a situation like this? No. No, you cannot – for one thing, their audience wouldn’t laugh, because this only works if you believe the people involved still enjoy one another. This kind of warmth cannot be faked.

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Post-Convention Euphoria

September 7, 2012

Now THAT was a speech. I guess we got spoiled in 2008, when Obama trotted out a new, moving speech for every primary win… but I’d forgotten what this felt like – to truly believe that the man running for President really understood my values, my concerns, my hopes for the best in this nation. But now that he’s the POTUS, it seems all I’ve heard about is the Republican ticket. Attacks on women’s reproductive rights, vitriol over gays in the military, the promise to end Obamacare, the pledge to enshrine intolerance in our Constitution. And lies upon lies upon lies. Lies about Medicare, lies about taxes, lies about the President’s record, and lies about their own records. I don’t know what it’s like, experiencing a national election from a blue state, but here in Tennessee it gets scary. Sometimes it seems that no one in public life is willing to stand up with the President and embrace what he’s done, to be openly liberal and proud of it. To represent what Howard Dean once called “The Democratic wing of the Democratic party.”

Word cloud of Obama’s speech to the DNC (click to enlarge)

I was reminded of the euphoria I felt when Obama was elected. Not just the joy that came from having worked so hard for this result; I felt, for a moment, as if people like me were in the majority, for the first time in my adult life. People who wanted opportunities for advancement to be open to all in the United States, people who believe that the government can make a positive difference in people’s lives. People who believed that no one should be without a safe home or adequate food and medical care – that our society should provide a floor through which we let no one fall, and a ladder to help them achieve more. People who believe that we are all created equal and all deserve dignity and respect in our society, regardless of race or disability or sexual orientation or financial portfolio… This speech brought that back to me. Others set the tone so beautifully – Clinton debunked the Republican lies, Biden reminded us just how good Obama is at the hardest job in the nation – but Barack Obama did what he does best. Put our hopes into words, our faith in our country into sharp focus. Highlighted our potential for greatness, brought out the best in our nation. I’ve been struggling to articulate what is so obviously wrong with the GOP platform this year – it lacks empathy, it lacks inclusion… but there was something more I couldn’t name. And Obama named it. CITIZENSHIP. The idea that we have responsibilities, as well as rights, and that through our government, we work together for the good of our community.

[W]e also believe in something called citizenship, a word at the very heart of our founding, at the very essence of our democracy; the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another, and to future generations.

We believe that when a CEO pays his autoworkers enough to buy the cars that they build, the whole company does better. We believe that when a family can no longer be tricked into signing a mortgage they can’t afford, that family is protected, but so is the value of other people’s homes, and so is the entire economy. We believe the little girl who’s offered an escape from poverty by a great teacher or a grant for college could become the next Steve Jobs, or the scientist who cures cancer, or the President of the United States, and it’s in our power to give her that chance….

Because — because in America, we understand that this democracy is ours.

We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which asks only what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.

As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. That’s what we believe.

(full transcript at The Washington Post)

That’s what being a Democrat is all about. And we should never be ashamed of it. We ask for common sacrifice for the common good. We don’t hate business, or stifle success – we breed success by fostering dignity and opportunity. I feel at home again, back in the Democratic wing of the Democratic party. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.