On Monday I celebrated the life of Martin Luther King Jr. Today, just two days later, I find myself mourning the loss of one of Scotland’s favourite sons: Bill McLaren. Bill was a BBC legend, a rugby sports commentator sans compare, knowledgeable, passionate and totally unbiased over his 50 years of service. I never met the man in real life but like so many of you wish I had. Instead, I knew him through his television and radio commentary of international rugby, bringing the beautiful game to life with his fluent, vivid language: “As slippery as a baggy (a little fish) in a Border burn” – his poetic description of the then Scottish scrum-half Gary Armstrong. Quite simply for fortunate and successive generations Bill McLaren was “The Voice of Rugby.” Here is what Finlay Calder, Scottish internationalist, had to say on hearing of his death:
“He was “The Voice of Rugby,” and it was a beautiful voice as well, so easy to listen to. I think that was a huge part of his appeal.” (The Scotsman)
Despite the sadness I feel today I know there is so much as a public speaker to take from Bill’s life: his use of voice (gifted), his words and poetic description of play, his pace and pause in commentary, his overwhelming passion and the time he took in preparation. In death Bill McLaren reminds you and me of the key to success in public performance: God Bless “The Voice of Rugby.”
The Speakers College
Today, 18th January 2010, is Martin Luther King Jr Day in the USA. His most famous speech is remembered as – I HAVE A DREAM.
You will understand why this day is observed if you turn back the clock of time to 28th August 1963 and set the co-ordinates to Washington DC where you will find yourself standing in the symbolic shadow of the Lincoln memorial overlooking the shoulders of Martin Luther King Jr. Shortly he will deliver the speech of a lifetime – I HAVE A DREAM. It is a balmy late August afternoon and legitimate grievance has bubbled, frothed, festered for months, and in the intoxicating miasma of hundreds of thousands of protesters (black and white) emotions stir and peak and trough in response to the words of consecutive speakers. And with expectations sky plus high and with the weight of the world on his shoulders the final speaker Martin Luther King Jr now rises to deliver a truly awesome public speaking performance – I HAVE A DREAM.
Interestingly (and historically accurate), it isn’t until circa three-quarters of the way into his speech that he unleashes a paraphrased form of a speech (about a dream) he has given many times before in cramped church halls, on soapboxes, and in meeting rooms. Why does he do this? Simply, he is challenged from the crowd by Gospel singer and close friend Mahalia Jackson to “Tell them about your dream Martin” and in this instant he comes off-script and instead seamlessly follows her advice by regaling his audience with the story of his dream for mankind. In this precious moment when he decides to speak from his heart he becomes physically transformed – his notes go down, he has strong, bold arm movements and a powerful voice – and his speech, which in retrospect could so easily have been forgotten is lifted to new heights and transformed into the simply unforgettable. It is the speech of a lifetime: I HAVE A DREAM.
At The Speakers’ College the most important and cornerstone lesson in learning how to speak is not about how to hold your notes or construct your speech or use your voice (important as these elements are); instead it is for you to learn to speak from your heart as Martin Luther King Jr so brilliantly did in 1963. Or, if I may in turn paraphrase the words of the greatly lamented Martin Luther King Jr: “I say to you today, my friends, so even though you face the challenges of public speaking today and tomorrow – I still have a dream, a dream where all speakers will one day learn that magnificent speech only happens when you dare to speak from the heart.” I HAVE A DREAM.
Hear this fabulous speech via YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbUtL_0vAJk
The Speakers College