Review of a Jesse Jackson speech

In this speech Jesse Jackson, campaigning for US President in 1984, speaks at a church. There are two things I would like to point out in this speech, and they both have to do with point #3 in overcoming the Curse of Knowledge (make it concrete — use simple words and clear imagery):

1. At 1:45, he discusses economic policies, but he does not use academic, brainy terms like “balance of trade,” “equilibrium,” or “investment deflection.” Instead, he uses simple words and clear imagery: cars, vodka, and airplanes.

He says:

“When you buy Honda and Toyota, that’s foreign policy. Russian vodka, that’s foreign policy. (unintelligible), that’s foreign policy. Mercedes-Benz, that’s foreign policy. As a matter of fact, we came here on a foreign policy [Matt: he’s probably referring to Airbus].”

2. At 4:48, he discusses election campaign tactics, and he starts mentioning numbers.

It’s easy for people to get lost with numbers — a number that is significant to the speaker might not be significant to the audience, and vice versa.

But Jesse Jackson punctuates the numbers with a simple image between each number:

“…[state, numbers, blah blah]…rocks, just layin’ around. [State, numbers, blah blah]…rocks, just layin’ around. [State, numbers, blah blah]…rocks, just layin’ around. [State, numbers, blah blah]…rocks, just layin’ around.”

What does this mean for the rest of us, those of us who are not running for US President?

Examine your words closely. Use the simplest, clearest imagery you can.

Think about how you would express your theory in pictures, and then describe those pictures.

When you are talking about numbers, make those numbers real — give them an image, and, if you can, repeat that image often. Most of your audience will forget the numbers, but they’ll remember the image.

By the way, in this speech Jesse Jackson speaks very quickly, but don’t worry: even though I am a native speaker there were words I could not understand, or had to listen to multiple times before I could understand.

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