Reconstructing the Great Speeches

51GzgohmOqL

One of my hobbies over the years has been listening to, reading, and collecting the great speeches of history.  From Socrates’s speech at his trial to Pericles’s Funeral Oration speech to Napoleon’s speech to his Old Guard to Martin Luther King’s Dream speech, I have always been fascinated by oratory that mesmerizes, galvanizes and exhorts people to goals and endeavors that they would never have believed possible.  The list of great speeches is exhaustive.  It would take an encyclopedia to catalog all the wonderful speeches of history.  I am sure that there are blogs dedicated to this effort.  For the next few weeks, I am going to present my humble attempt to look at a few of these magnificent oratorical achievements.  Few things in life are more beautiful that a well worded speech.

article-2403311-1660750A000005DC-96_638x433

One of the most interesting things about a great speech is that you can find yourself being moved by it even when you disagree with the arguments or premises of the speaker.  For instance, General Douglas MacArthur delivered his “farewell speech” to a joint session of Congress on April 19, 1951.  This speech is sometimes referred to by its most famous line “Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.”  MacArthur spoke to defend his militaristic war policy in Asia after being rebuked by President Truman for his resistance to Truman’s position.

i6nbviy2iwv01

I have listened to MacArthur’s speech dozens of time.  I disagree with everything he says in his speech.  Nevertheless, I find myself oddly moved and thinking “Right On!  Let’s go in and blast those guys.”  I catch myself getting ready to sign up with the Marines and remember that MacArthur would probably have started WW III if not for Truman.  But great speeches are like that.  They move us, they hypnotize us, they motivate us to efforts that were not for the speech, we would never have thought possible.

I have this habit in my blog of doing things or writing about ideas and issues in groups of seven.  I think this is the limit to my attention span on any one topic or issue.  Thus, I wrote about capitalism, medicine, immigration, education, prophets, and several other issues in groups of seven or sometimes less when my focus ran out even sooner than seven.  In respect to talking about great speeches, I could write about one great speech each day and not live enough lives to cover all the great speeches of history.  Thus, in keeping with my limited attention to seven of any particular subject, I will spend the next seven blogs “reconstructing” some of my (perhaps not the greatest) favorite speeches.

Now, I carefully chose the word “reconstruct.”  If I had said that I was going to “deconstruct” several great speeches, then these next blogs would be quite a bit different.  To deconstruct can be defined as:

“A method of critical analysis of philosophical and literary language which emphasizes the internal workings of language and conceptual systems, the relational quality of meaning, and the assumptions implicit in forms of expression.” —Dictionary.Com. 

I have no desire or the skill level to “deconstruct” historic speeches.  Instead, I would like to “reconstruct” several of these speeches by reinterpreting what the original speakers wanted to achieve.  To understand this, we must understand the relationship of the speech to the context that the speech was given in.  Too often you hear a speech, but the context of the speech is often left out of the speech.  This is a major failing of listening to any speech since the context in which the speech occurs is essential to fully understanding and appreciating the speech.  I will also try to reconstruct the meaning that these speakers had by updating and rephrasing some of their vocabulary for a modern audience.  This will probably horrify some purists out there who believe that things once said should never be rephrased.

Let me give you an example from one of Napoleon’s famous speeches.  First, though we need to establish the context for his speech.

Napoleon_returned

History teaches us today that either Napoleon was a great military leader or that he was a megalomaniac bent on world domination.  If we journey back to the times right after the French Revolution (1789- 1794) we find Europe in turmoil.  The French people have not only overthrown their King and Queen, they have beheaded them.  Monarchies all over Europe are still in power.  Spain, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Germany, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, and others all have their reigning rulers ordained by God.  Imagine their horror at seeing the French get rid of their royalty.  Imagine, if we suddenly took all our politicians and drowned them in the Potomac.  Or what if instead of storming the Bastille as the French Peasants did, we would storm Hollywood and throw out all the actors and actresses.  “Off with their lovely gorgeous heads!”

9781640306547_p0_v1_s550x406France is in chaos.  Heads are rolling faster than you can say “jack rabbit.”  No one knows whose head will be on the guillotine next.  In the middle of this pandemonium, the Monarchs surrounding France decide to put a stop to the changes going on in France.  They plan to reestablish the French royalty and bring things back to where they were.  European royalty marshal their armies to attack France.  In steps Napoleon.  A young French solider with extraordinary military skills.  Napoleon galvanizes the French People and singing the Marseillaise they fight back and defeat all of the opposing enemies.  The Following is an excerpt from a speech given by Napoleon to his army in Italy delivered on May 15, 1796:

“SOLDIERS! You have precipitated yourselves like a torrent from the Apennines. You have overwhelmed or swept before you all that opposed your march.  Piedmont, delivered from Austrian oppression, has returned to her natural sentiments of peace and friendship toward France.  Milan is yours, and over all Lombardy floats the flag of the Republic.

Basically, Napoleon is congratulating his army on their spectacular victories over the combined armies that attacked France: “You guys did great.  You really rocked. You kicked some real butt out there today.” 

But, and this is a big BUTT, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Napoleon’s victories and the rewards from these victories soon went to his head.  It was not enough to simply defend France; Napoleon then decides that there are more wars to win and more power to obtain.  He plans to establish a Grande Paix Française, wherein France will rule most of Europe with himself as emperor.  From the same speech in Italy:

“Yes, soldiers, you have done much; but much still remains for you to do.  Shall it be said of us that we knew how to conquer, but not to profit by victory?  Shall posterity reproach us with having found a Capfia in Lombardy?  Nay, fellow soldiers!  I see you already eager to cry ‘To arms!’  Inaction fatigues you! and days lost to glory are to you days lost to happiness.”

“Okay Guys, we kicked butt.  Wasn’t it fun?  But look, we can kick more butt and have more fun.  I guarantee glory and fame awaits us.  As we sing the Marseillaise:

To arms, citizens!

Form your battalions,

Let us march, let us march!

That their impure blood

Should water our fields.

Sacred love of the fatherland,

Guide and support our vengeful arms.

Liberty, beloved liberty.

41nEpKQ5+WL._SX338_BO1,204,203,200_

Over the course of my next seven blogs, with interludes as needed, I will “reconstruct” seven of my favorites speeches.  The speeches that I want to look at will include the following:

  • The Defense Speech – Socrates
  • Here I stand – Martin Luther
  • Tilbury speech – Queen Elizabeth
  • Dare, Dare Again, Always Dare – Danton
  • If There is No Struggle, there is No Progress – Frederick Douglas
  • Give Me Blood and I Will Give You Freedom – Subhas Chandra Bose
  • Police Brutality Speech – Malcolm X

There are thousands of great speeches and dozens of “The Greatest Speeches in History” lists.  For my reconstructions, I wanted to take some of my favorite speeches that are less well known, and which were very controversial at the time.  It is one thing to get up and say something that everyone will agree with (Trump Speech), it is another thing entirely to give a speech that threatens the status quo and which may leave the audience hating you.  Each one of the above speeches is challenging and provocative.  The speakers were not afraid to generate animosity and hostility towards themselves.  I think this fearlessness in the face of adversity is truly one of the characteristics of a great speech.

“Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible. We believe good men more fully and more readily than others: this is true generally whatever the question is, and absolutely true where exact certainty is impossible and opinions are divided.” — Aristotle

 

 

A Day in the Life of a Hummingbird

75367911-1200px

I am a hummingbird.  My name is Archilochus Colubris, but you can call me Josh.  I am also known as a Ruby Throated Hummingbird to distinguish me from other members of my family.  We have over 330 different species in my family.  Much like humans have ethnic groups, we hummingbirds have species.  My family has the distinction of being the smallest members of the bird class known as Aves.

I listen to humans all the time talking about how tough their lives are.  Buddy, you don’t know what tough is.  Humans think they live life in the fast lane.   Did you know I flap my wings at 60 times per second?  That is 3600 times per minute.  Speedy Gonzales can run a mile in 4 minutes, in that time I could go nearly 4 miles.  I can fly upwards of 50 miles per hour.  My heart beats at over 1200 beats per minute.

Human beings, even the busiest ones take breaks several times a day.  Not me.  I almost never stop moving.  My life is constantly in motion.  I don’t have time for breaks.  My life span is only about 4 years.  During that time, I have lots to do.  Humans are always in a hurry and multi-task because they think have lots to do.  I can do in one year what it takes a human twenty years to do.  The cycle of life is the same for all of us.  We are born, grow up, age, and die.  Along the way, we make friends, have babies, eat many meals, sleep every day, and see some of the world.

60395581Did you know that if I am in Wisconsin this summer, I will migrate down to southern Mexico and northern Panama each winter?  I go by myself because hummingbirds tend to be loners.  No flocks or “birds of a feather” for us.  I enjoy the trip down each year by myself.  It takes me about a week to reach my final destination area.  The most remarkable part of my voyage is crossing the Gulf of Mexico.  I will fly non-stop up to 500 miles to reach Central America. It takes approximately 18-22 hours to complete my solitary flight.  I do this each year of my life.  I think even Charles Lindbergh would be impressed with my journey.

393c576c25effe36d2d60a0eb3477f25

b44b45903b38d29898c4e956efe12218Now I know you are all wondering about my sex life.  I have observed that this is an especially important part of a human being’s life.  So, you are probably asking how often does a hummingbird have sex and how many kids do we have in our short lives.  I probably find a female about three or four times a year to mate with.  I spend a great deal of time trying to impress a suitable mate.  I make the Blue Angels look like novices with the aerobatics I perform to attract a female of my species.  Compared to the time spent attracting a female, our mating goes pretty rapidly.  In about 4 seconds we are both done.  I have heard that some human males are even faster.

Unlike some humans and much like some others, I do not have a big role in the lives of my progeny.  I do not mate for life and I do not help my mate in any way to build her nest or care for her chicks.  In a human, this would be the height of irresponsibility, but it is just not in our DNA to take a patriarchal role with our off spring.  Of course, some human males will identify with my position.  I have observed many human males who take even less of a role than I do with their kids.

6258550c130c5ce0edb04526038302adNow as far as friends and enemies go, I do not have much of either one.  There is good and bad in this.  Humans have many friends and they tend to come and go like the weather.  I don’t have to deal with “fair weather” friends because I never make any friends.  If I miss out on the companionship, it never bothers me.

As for enemies, many birds fear hawks but I do not.  I tend to worry more about cats and praying mantis.  Both of these predators are surprisingly stealthy and have caught many a hummingbird by surprise.  Sometimes wasps, spiders, frogs, and an occasional snake will get lucky and make a meal of us.  Generally, I am speedy enough to avoid any potential predator who sees me as a tasty snack.  Being as small as I am, I cannot make much of a meal.

RubyThroatedHummerMaleAtFlowersNow we come to the biggest and most important part of my day.  Since I expend so much energy just moving and staying alive, I have an enormous appetite.  I love to eat.  My life is one constant search for food.  My favorite meals are nectar and insects.  Because of my high metabolism, I must eat all day long just to survive.  I consume about half my body weight in bugs and nectar each day.  To do this I must feed about every 10-15 minutes and visit 1,000-2,000 flowers throughout the day.  I will eat a few dozen to several hundred or even a thousand or more insects in one day, depending on the availability of insects, the type of insects, and my dietary needs. Imagine a 200-pound human eating about every 15 minutes a day and consuming 100 lbs. a day of meat.  Judging by some of the humans I see, I think some have this as a goal.  It might work for them if they were as energetic as I am, but this seldom seems to be the case with humans.

Eventually, death comes to us all.  We live fast and we die fast.  In only four years (on an average) I will be equal to an eighty-year-old human.  Like humans, hummingbirds die from many causes.  Predators eat us, we fly into stationary objects (especially windows and buildings), we get hit by vehicles, we encounter problems during migration or bad weather, we succumb to disease or other physical maladies, or we just plain get old and die.

The average heart rate of a human is about 70 beats per minute.  Assuming 80 years as an average age for most humans, than a human can expect to have about 100,800 heart beats per day x 365 days in a year x 80 years for a total of 2,943,360,000 heart beats in a lifetime.  Now my heart beats at about 1200 beats per minute or 1,728,000 per day x 365 days in a year x 4 years.  I can expect to have about 2,522,880,000 heart beats in my lifetime.  Given the range in my average age versus the average age of a human, I find it interesting that I have about the same amount of heart beats as a human does before I die.  I think there is a message here.  Maybe we all have the same amount of time on the earth, but we live it at different speeds.  Maybe we should all live each heart beat to the maximum.

I think I gave you more than a day in my life.  But since things move so fast for me, I could not help but give you a lifetime in a day.  Please watch the following video that some friends of mine made.  I am featured prominently in this film.  My one chance for stardom.

“I always loved those little creatures [hummingbird], always feel blessed when they appear nearby. There’s a magical quality to them. I finally put one in a song.” — Leonard Cohen

 

Autobiographies from the Dead – George Floyd

george-floyd-mural-scholarship

This series of “Autobiographies” started out as seven stories to commemorate some very special people.  They have one thing in common.  They are all dead.  Some have a burial place, and some were simply discarded like pieces of trash.  Their stories are told by the deceased themselves.  Their voices cry out from the fields, alleys, streets, rivers, and graveyards to speak.  I hear their cries.  They are channeling me to tell their stories to you.  They want you to know what their living and dying was for.  This week, George Floyd will tell you in his own words about his life, loves, dreams and death.  He is deceased now, talking from the great beyond where he has gone to meet his maker.

george-floyd-daughter-gianna-float-rtr-jc-200603_hpMain_16x9_992

George Floyd

My name is George Floyd.  My full name is George Perry Floyd Jr.  The name George is derived from the Greek word γεωργός (georgos) meaning “farmer and earth worker.”  I suppose it means that I am or was the “salt “of the earth.  Many kings, authors and great people have been named George.  The most famous for Americans being George Washington.  My family name was Floyd.  Floyd could have been my first name and people used to kid me and call me Floyd instead of George and tell me that my name was backwards.  Floyd is or was a slave name being derived from English or Irish heritage.

I was proud of my name.  Many Black folk get rid of their slave names and change them to Muhammad or Mustafa or some other Muslim name.  Others simply find a “non” slave name to adopt.  I was not ashamed of my name and I was always proud to be an American.  I was never one to say that all White people are devils or that White people are all the enemy.  I had many White friends as well as Black friends.  You can grow up in America being White and having no Black friends but if you are Black, you will more than likely have many White friends.  I got along with everyone.

Floyd_George3I was born on October 14, 1973 in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  I grew up in Houston Texas.  I was always big for my age and I loved sports where I excelled.  I also loved music and was part of a hip-hop group called “Screwed Up Click”.  My stage name was “Big Floyd.”  I was or thought I was headed for greatness.  Somehow though greatness never came.  I did not make any major league teams and I never got any big breaks on the music scene.  Like many young Black men with no foreseeable future, I stumbled into drugs.

Drugs will do three things for you.  1st. Destroy any will to achieve or drive for excellence.  The drug becomes a substitute for greatness.  2nd.  Destroy your finances.  You can never make enough money to support a drug habit.  3rd.  Lead to crime.  In order to support a drug habit, you must either deal or steal.  I chose to do both.

skynews-george-floyd-washington_5007851

I see the millions of people marching now in my name.  They are marching for peace and justice.  I spent several years in jail and was a criminal five times over.  I was arrested for an armed home invasion and sentenced to prison for five years.  I was a bad guy.  I was no saint.  I had five children out of wedlock, some of whom I abandoned.  If you had killed me back then, it would have been no great loss to humanity or my family.

In 2013, after leaving prison, I started to turn my life around.  I had kicked my drug addiction and I decided to devote my life to helping others.  I wanted to lead a more Christian life and help other young men do the same.  In 2014, I moved to Minneapolis to find work and new opportunities for my new life.  People called me the “Gentle Giant” because I would not hurt a flea.  I could easily have hurt at least two of those cops who grabbed me if I had wanted to.  I went down without a struggle.  I was 46 years old and things were looking up when I died.

8:08 PM – 14 Minutes to Live

It was May 25th, 2020.  It started off much as any day might.  Like many Americans, I had lost my job due to the Covid-19 Virus.  I was thinking about where I might find some other job opportunities.  I spent some time talking to my girlfriend and took some pain killers for a low back ache problem that I had.  I watched some sports on TV.  Later that day, I decided to take a drive with a couple of friends to a nearby market to get some cigarettes.  The weather was clear.  It was around 8 PM and the local temperature was 76 degrees.

I went into the market.  I picked out my favorite brand of cigarettes and paid the store clerk with a twenty-dollar bill.  I walked out to my car, got in and was sitting in the car talking to my friends when the store clerk and another guy comes running up to my car and starts demanding that I give him his cigarettes back.  He is also telling me to give him my phone.  He is hard to understand, and I do not know why he is demanding that the cigarettes be returned.  I decided to just ignore him and hope he will go away.

flyod-site-1-white-box-videoSixteenByNineJumbo1600

The next thing I know is that two cops are banging on my car window and telling me to put my hands on the steering wheel.  One cop has his gun drawn and is pointing it at me. The rest of the events happened so fast that they are hard to describe.  I am trying to ask, “What have I done?”  I do not want to seem resistant and I am trying to comply with the demands that the police are making while I am also trying to find out what I have done.  Next, I am told that I am under arrest.  What is happening?  What did I do?  What am I being arrested for?  I am then handcuffed and pushed to the police car.  I am as compliant as I can be, but the handcuffs hurt and my whole world is one big confusion.

george-floyd-homicide

Then things go from bad to worse.  One officer pushes me to the ground and kneels on my neck.  “I can’t breathe.  I can’t breathe.”  I scream this out several times.  I plead for him to take his knee off of my neck.  “Please don’t kill me.”  My pleas are ignored.  “I can’t breathe.”  I think I am dying.  “Mama.”  I know that I am dying.  “Mama.”

I died at 8:22 PM but the officer did not take his knee off my neck until 8:27 PM.  He had kept his knee on my neck for 8 minutes and 24 seconds.  What did I do?  Why did they murder me?  I was only 46 years old and my life was just beginning to come together.  What did I do to deserve such a fate?  Did God not forgive me for my former transgressions?  Was it because I was a Black man?  Do White people really hate and despise all Black people?

george-floyd-funeral-fountain-praise-church-houston-09-gty-jc-200609_hpEmbed_3x2_992

They buried me on June 9, 2020 in Houston Texas where I grew up.  I am amazed at all the people that attended my funeral.  Life sure is funny.  Thirty years ago, I had a dream.  I was 16 years old and when a friend asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I said “I want to touch the world.”  Now I see that I have touched the world.  I did not think I would have to die to do it though, but in one sense it is a cheap price to pay.

Wright-GlobalProtestsGeorgeFloyd

The life of a Black person in America is never easy.  Institutionalized racism, personal racism, prejudice, and discrimination are woven into the very fabric of our daily lives.  From the economic sphere to the social sphere it is difficult for a Black person to rise above the hatred and bigotry that surrounds them.  Few if any White people understand what it is like to be loathed because of the color of your skin.

I go now to find God.  I want to know if it will ever end.  I want to know why God allows it to happen.  Will there ever be a day in America when a Black person can walk down a street and not be judged by the color of his or her skin?

22454672

 

 

What do those Black People Want Anyway?

Wrote this five years ago. More relevant now than ever before.

Aging Capriciously

Two White men overheard talking at a coffee shop (Read while listening to Glory from Selma)

Ron:  You know it seems all we hear about are Black problems these days.   What do they want?  Christ’s sake, we abolished slavery over 150 years ago now.

Jack:  Yeah, then they got to join the military in WWI and even fight in WW II.

Black-unemploymentRon:  Yep, then all they did was complain even more.  Selma and Bama marches!

Jack:  Right, so we gave them the Civil Rights amendment.  Thought that would make them happy!

Ron:  Nope, they just complained even more.  Watts riots and all.  So what did we do?

Jack:  Created Martin Luther King Day.

Ron:  Just so.  Did that make them happy?

Jack:  Course not.  They just whined even more.  Especially after that white guy shot MLK.

Ron:  So what…

View original post 883 more words

%d bloggers like this: