Two time Prime Minister of Britain, Winston Churchill, well known for his World War II speech once wrote that “of all the talents bestowed on men, none is so precious as the gift of oratory.” Churchill knew he was a master and could move his people with words alone.
To be a master orator, not to the levels of Cicero or even Barack Obama, the leader of the free world, takes not just skill but also knowledge in the subject and confidence. We have seen many orators of our time who have managed to influence mankind, for the good and bad, the likes of Adolf Hitler and in contrast Martin Luther King Jnr coming to mind.
On Monday this week, the Leader of Opposition Lazarus Chakwera delivered what many thought was a brilliant speech, full of inspiration, powerful and witty. Compared to the 90 minutes of verbosity Malawians were subjected to last week, of course, Chakwera was brilliant.
It was clear that in Chakwera’s camp there are some brilliant minds with the gift of garb. For a man whose writing prior to the May 20 2014 elections consisted of interpreting scripture, of course, his speech could be described as powerful.
Chakwera’s oratory skills cannot compare to those of President Peter Mutharika, certainly. Some had the nerve to compare him to Kamuzu Banda, whether by virtue of both leaders belonging to Malawi Congress Party (MCP), I cannot know the reasoning. The Leader of Opposition had an attentive audience, members of Parliament clapped at just the right time, they nodded and they certainly did not nod off in the middle of his delivery.
Comparatively, Mutharika’s 90 minutes were spent reading out pieces of Ministerial Statements stitched together by individuals who forgot his age and weaknesses in speech. The writers of the president’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) did not do him justice.
But in the end, what was the take home message from the two speeches? Apart from differences in opinion of food security reforms, differences in the course of action to be taken on how to stop the killing and abduction of people with albinism, what else?
Neither can be described as powerful, inspirational or moving. Reading out a litany of successes haphazardly put together by many hands at Capital Hill is certainly not the making of a powerful and inspirational speech. If at the end of 90 minutes listeners cannot pick out a theme of your speech, then it has flopped.
If at the end of 45 minutes, the best picks out of your speech consist of merely well-constructed sentences which elicit tens of ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ on social media platforms, then, sadly, you are no great orator and your well—put— together address had failed to land.
The 40 pages that Mutharika delivered over 90 minutes turned into a bed-time story, yes, but the other which was 5 251 words sent Malawians straight into dreamland.