Republican presidents have had constant difficulty in communicating their initiatives and accomplishments to the American people, due to an overwhelmingly hostile, activist and politically liberal/left press corps.
But according to James Rosebush, an alumnus of several senior Reagan White House positions, both his former boss and President Trump succeeded best when they avoided media “filtering” by taking their messages directly to the public. Mr. Rosebush, the CEO of the international consulting group Growth Strategy Inc., wrote a celebrated biography, “True Reagan,” several years ago.
President Reagan was a master at the televised speech, but also of stand-up remarks at venues like the Berlin Wall and the beaches of Normandy, where his words were transmitted live to viewers. Using 2020 technology, President Trump often bypasses media “interpretations” in different ways. Through his Twitter posts, though some have been cringe-worthy, he delivers his messages directly and unfettered to many millions of his “followers.” Prior to the hated coronavirus’ arrival, he was able to fill huge sports arenas at pro-Trump rallies, usually accompanied by live TV coverage (if not by the mainstream networks).
Though Reagan and Mr. Trump could not trade most of their speeches, Mr. Rosebush admires the successes of both, but was “schooled” by the former in how to prepare and deliver high-impact speeches. “Winning Your Audience” has plenty of Reagan and White House anecdotes, along with examples and references to speeches delivered by the great orators in history.
I’m not sure if women are naturally better at speaking, but Mr. Rosebush notes that in a typical day, American women utter about 20,000 words each day, vs. only 7,000 words from men.
This is mostly a self-help book, enabling the reader to plan and prepare for public speaking in comprehensive and strategic ways. Some books provide Dale Carnegie plans to enhance confidence in speaking (Mr. Rosebush’s father was a Carnegie instructor), others discuss the art of rhetoric hearkening back to ancient Greeks and still others bring to the reader the key passages from the great, reverberating speeches over the millennia.
“Winning Your Audience” provides all that, and more. For the 75 percent of the American public who are “glossophobic” (viscerally afraid of speaking to a live audience), Mr. Rosebush provides tips for building confidence and calls upon some of the most moving speeches in history, especially those from his former boss, Reagan, as well as former first lady Nancy Reagan. One recurring feature in Ronald Reagan’s remarks is his reliance on the quotes of other leaders. Ninety-six percent of his speeches included such references.
While we can all learn from the great orators, the author advises speakers to find their authentic “selves” before heading onto a stage. There is an obvious comfort in presenting as who you are vs. as a facsimile of someone you admire. This perfectly complements the primary theme of “You Are The Message,” by flawed genius Roger Ailes, the founder of the Fox News Channel.
But perhaps Mr. Rosebush’s best advice is not a mere “tip,” but an exhortation for speakers to take their assignments seriously and to put in the requisite time by researching, writing and practicing a speech until the product will be a truly persuasive and interesting production.
Techniques presented include telling stories to the audience and interviewing yourself as you advance your case or your narrative. The most effective speeches, says Mr. Rosebush, are those that ask for involvement and those that inspire. A classic in these genres is President Kennedy’s inaugural address, where he asks the American people to “ask not what your country can do for you,” and later warns that we will “oppose any foe.”
Like Ailes’ book, “Winning Your Audience” can be used as a resource or even a textbook in college courses on communications. But in this otherworldly time of self-quarantines and shutdowns of so many aspects of American life, Jim Rosebush’s tour de force is a perfect way for all of us to sharpen our abilities in public speaking and other communications.
• Herbert W. Stupp is editor of Gipperten.com. He was an NYC commissioner appointed by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani after serving in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
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WINNING YOUR AUDIENCE: DELIVER A MESSAGE WITH THE CONFIDENCE OF A PRESIDENT
By James Rosebush
Hachette Book Group (Center Street), $28, 321 pages