Where does a powerful speech come from?
It doesn’t come from power. If it did, Donald Trump would deliver powerful, empathetic speeches instead of the empty, divisive rhetoric delivered in all-cap Tweets.
It doesn’t come from wealth. A rich person is not automatically a great speaker. But a poor person may become rich through their speaking skills.
A powerful speech comes from the heart, from lived experience, from the willingness to re-live pain and expose vulnerabilities, and from compassion.
This week a friend and client of ours posted on Facebook a heart-felt statement about events in the United States in the wake of the killing by white police of yet another black person, George Floyd.
Ben John (above), who lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, was gracious enough to let us reprint his words. From a speaker’s point of view, it has a beginning, a middle and an end; the language is simple and direct; he speaks from personal experience, but then expands to a global context, and he has something to say.
We are delighted to share his words:
I was born in South Africa, in the 60s, during a very turbulent time and in a period of institutionalized racism. I am a survivor of Apartheid (racial segregation). As a young man, I experienced beatings, racial slurs, random police checks, constantly being pulled over by the police, and complete disrespect.
My sons have been subjected to random police stops in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
What does this do for one’s self-esteem and confidence?
Sadly this horrific situation in the US has brought back memories, something I do not want to go back to, ever. Its painful.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the architect of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee in South Africa said “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” We must stand together and stamp out this disease of hatred and fear.
It is easier to get out of the concrete walls of a prison than the prison of our minds. We need get out of the bubble, and venture out, get to know a person of colour, or BIPOC (black, indigenous and people of colour). Invite them to your home, so that your children can meet them. This will help dispel fear.
Have open and honest family conversations. This is important for the survival of human beings: our children.
Martin Luther King Jnr. said: “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” I believe that we cannot fight darkness with darkness, but with light. Light dispels the darkness. “We shall overcome, someday.”
Ben John is a plumbing and construction owner. As Ben grew up, in poverty in South Africa, he decided to become a plumber so that he could provide his large family with their first flushing toilet. Later he moved to Canada and founded H20, Help to Overcome. H2O works with schools in the developing world to set up practical and sustainable sanitation and hygiene facilities.