It’s true that some perfectly good ideas have been ignored or discounted because they were poorly delivered.
And, conversely, some bogus ideas have made more of an impact than they deserve because they were so well delivered.
So I’m not saying that delivery is unimportant. Far from it. A masterful delivery is one of the cornerstones of a great speech.
But clearly the words you use and what they mean are more important than how you say them. Content is king. Delivery is merely its helpful, or unhelpful, servant.
As Barrack Obama said on the night of his hard-won 21-month journey for the Presidency of the United States “and to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared”.
He wasn’t just speaking to the section of the electorate that had voted for him. He did not speak to America alone. He was speaking to the world: he was speaking to you and me.
Every speech I’ve watched Mr Obama make has left me feeling uplifted, inspired and strengthened. Every address he’s made has given me a sense of history forming, and the surreal feeling that I had a front-row YouTube ticket to seeing it all happen.
But where does that leave me, the Rwandan? As the immediate euphoria of Mr Obama’s Presidency (including his cabinet) subsides, I can’t help but feel a hint of bitterness.
When was the last time a public figure in Rwanda besides His Excellency President Kagame communicated with me like that? I wrack through my memory of speeches by local leaders, finding it a chore to remember anything they’ve said. Some do stand out, but those that do evoke anything but inspiration.
A number of various speeches by a cross section of government officials in different functions, have not only left me angry at times, but also speechless at the audacity of specious thought.
This situation needs to improve drastically because at least every Rwandan has sat through many speeches as a result of the never ending meetings – regardless of speaking ability, desire, or comfort level, there are a few things we can do to enhance speaking engagements by our local leaders because their ability to strengthen their speaking is imperative.
Similarly, you don’t want people to go away from your speech saying, “You used great vocal variety” or “Your gestures were truly outstanding.” Instead, you want them to get the big picture.
You want them to see things the way you see things, to feel about them the way you feel about them, to want to act the way you want them to act.
You want people to pay attention to your message, to remember it, and to be changed by it.
Liban Mugabo is a student in Singapore