While walking yesterday, I was listening to the new biography of Jimmy Carter, His Very Best, by Jonathan Alter. In a section about the energy crisis of the 70’s, Alter relates Carter’s actions and his address to the nation informing the people of the severity of the problem and what must be done to address the crisis. In a footnote, Alter tells of the intelligent manner of Carter’s delivered words so people would understand.
Having written his own speech, it was on an 11th grade level. The only other modern president to speak on that level was Herbert Hoover. Alter notes that neither Carter nor Hoover won reelection. Reagan and Roosevelt defeated Carter and Hoover and spoke at a 7th and 8th grade level. Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Ford and Clinton spoke at a 9th grade level, both Bushes at a 7th grade level and Donald Trump at less than a 5th grade level. That’s a very sad statistic for several reasons.
Is that the level at which Trump is capable of speaking, or is that the level he wants to appeal to, or is that the level he thinks the American people can understand? All of those options are exceedingly sad and perhaps explain why I have no respect for the man as an orator and can listen to him talk for about thirty seconds before turning the TV off.
When I think about my reactions to anyone making a speech whether it’s a politician, a preacher, a teacher, or a celebrity, there has to be substance behind the words, an understanding of the meaning of the words, and how those words might be received by an audience. And then the words need to be delivered with integrity and a sincere belief that the audience deserves the truth and can understand the truth delivered by a caring, empathetic, compassionate human being. That’s a big part of what’s been missing from our current administration.