Women At The Podium
Think Hillary can win the debate? Think again…
[Doug Gamble] 3/2/06
story in The New York Times worried that, when it comes to
public speaking, New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is
no match for her husband,
former President Bill Clinton.
appearance alongside Bill at the Coretta Scott King funeral,
the story said, “To her critics and admirers, the moment
was a reminder that for all her skills as a politician, Mrs.
Clinton is not known for her ability to move people with the
power of her oratory, something that could prove a liability
should she run for the presidency in 2008.” (Note to
The NYT: She’s running.)
Gamble is a former writer for President Ronald Reagan
and resides in Carmel. [go to Gamble index]
one thing Republicans would concede it’s that Bill is
an effective speaker, and if there’s one thing Democrats
would concede it’s that Hillary isn’t. The only
thing worse than her flat, emotionless podium style is when
she tries to fake passion by launching her voice into a shrill
shriek that makes fingernails on a blackboard sound good by
makes a mistake common among poor speakers, adjusting the volume
of her voice to the size of the venue in which she’s
speaking. She doesn’t seem to understand that, since
the invention of the microphone, this is unnecessary. Her husband,
on the other hand, speaks in the same intimate, conversational,
one-on-one tone whether he’s in a small room or a huge
grating style sets the stage for one of the great all-time
shriek fests when she makes her speech accepting her party’s
nomination for president at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
And when she’s not shrieking she’s being school
marmish. If Bill inspired his followers, Hillary lectures hers
where I’m going to get myself into the same kind of trouble
as Larry Summers who was forced to resign as president of Harvard
University for suggesting that women are not as proficient
as men in math and science. I believe that Hillary is being
held to an unfair standard because women, generally, are not
as good at public speaking as men are.
that great oratory in the Winston Churchill tradition is a
lost art regardless of gender, I can think of no women in American
public life who can match the speechmaking skills of a Ronald
Reagan, a Bill Clinton or a Barack Obama, to name only three.
And when it comes to arousing an audience is there, or has
there ever been, a female JFK or Martin Luther King?
who have traditionally been referred to as good speakers are
former Texas Governor Ann Richards and North Carolina Senator
Elizabeth Dole. But Richards often lapses into shrillness and
Dole, who long ago adopted the gimmick of eschewing a podium
to roam the room with a hand-held microphone, can come across
like a time share salesperson trying to talk you into a piece
of property. She’s so polished she seems insincere.
those mentioned above are associated with speeches that inspire,
while many women give speeches that merely inform. When it
comes to getting elected to political office, the former is
more valuable. Women speakers also tend to use less humor in
their presentations, especially self-deprecating humor, forsaking
a powerful means to win over an audience.
all of that there is one factor that simply cannot be avoided:
Men’s voices at the podium are usually superior and easier
to take. Not only, by nature of their depth, are they less
prone to shrillness and more authoritative, important in politics,
but male speakers in general are less likely to lapse into
sing-song or monotone.
the answer to the question, “When will Americans elect
a woman president?” can be answered with another question:
When will a female candidate for president be able to deliver
as good a speech as her male opponent? -one-
Doug Gamble contributed speech material to Presidents Reagan
and George H.W. Bush, writes occasional opinion columns
for the Orange County Register and is a senior contributor
totheOneRepublic / CaliforniaRepublic.org.
2006 Doug Gamble