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Sunday, August 15, 2010

The West Wing and Speeches that Move You

For a number of years I have been a massive fan of the television drama The West Wing. The fictional story of President Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen, and his staff is truly engaging. The program is an idealized representation of American politics and it grabbed me hook, line, and sinker. I love everything about the show, the cast, the setting, the situations the characters are in, but I especially love the writing. Utter brilliance!! If you love television programs that are based around witty dialogue, you owe it to yourself to watch it.

I recently watched an episode in which Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn, played by Rob Lowe, is suffering from writers block. After much discussion with Communications Director Toby Ziegler, played by Richard Schiff, in which they walked around air force one, and yelled at one another, Sam mentions something that truly stuck with me. He starts talking about speeches and words. According to Sam a good speech should get the blood moving, the heart beating, and push an individual to action. “It should inspire people.” I completely agree with this.

However it made me realize something. We as a society are currently lacking this feature. This generation does not have its “Great Communicator”. A writer or public figure that is a voice of a generation, that can move us with his or her words; no F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Kennedy, or Ernest Hemingway. Don’t get me wrong, there are some fine writers currently that are creating some fantastic work, but nothing that truly gets the blood pumping.

I haven’t read or heard anything recently that cause me to think, “You know that’s an instant classic.” The first time I read The Great Gatsby, I was just blow away by the prose that Fitzgerald used. The description given made me feel like I was there with the characters. President Kennedy gave a speech that inspired America to go to the moon within a decade. Imagine hearing and reading these speeches and novels for the first time. You had to get the feeling that this was something special.

It could be that because of all of the noise (television, radio, the Internet, iPods, Social Networks, Newspapers, etc.) that is thrown at people now a days, that an artist or public figure has to condense everything into thirty side bytes, just to hold a person’s attention span before they move onto the next thing. Or it could be that I am not just looking hard enough, and there are works out there that can inspire a person into action. Until then I will just keep on the lookout and watch another season of The West Wing.

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