Politics & Society


Charge it to my head and not to my heart!

“No generation can choose the age or circumstance in which it is born”

Charge it to my head and not to my heart!

During the Bushfire Crisis and now the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been witness to a lot of ‘speeches’ by politicians, some of which have been good, some bad, some self-serving, some frankly patronising. 

A good speech makes a point, has a beginning, a middle and an end, and serves a purpose.  A really great speech comes from the heart, generates a feeling, and creates a call to action. 

We reflect on one such speech.

On 17 July 1984, Senator Jesse Jackson spoke to the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco.  He sought to heal the division created by his Presidential candidacy and pledged to support Walter Mondale. Starting at 11 p.m, and for the next fifty minutes (with more television viewers watching than at any time in the convention), Jackson turned the convention hall into a revival tent. Successive roars of applause kept swelling over the audience as Jackson’s gospel-cadenced, impassioned oration galvanised his audience in the name of party unity.  Throughout it, the television audience kept increasing–reaching 33 million viewers by the end. Many compared the speech to one of the greatest ever delivered at a nominating convention. “If you are a human being and weren’t affected by what you just heard, you may be beyond redemption,” declared Florida Governor Bob Graham.

The video of part of the speech (6 minutes) is here:


and the text of the speech is here https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/jessejackson1984dnc.htm 

Some of the memorable quotes:

‘No generation can choose the age or circumstance in which it is born, but through leadership it can choose to make the age in which it is born an age of enlightenment, an age of jobs, and peace, and justice. Only leadership — that intangible combination of gifts, the discipline, information, circumstance, courage, timing, will and divine inspiration — can lead us out of the crisis in which we find ourselves. Leadership can mitigate the misery of our nation. Leadership can part the waters and lead our nation in the direction of the Promised Land. Leadership can lift the boats stuck at the bottom.’

‘If, in my low moments, in word, deed or attitude, through some error of temper, taste, or tone, I have caused anyone discomfort, created pain, or revived someone’s fears, that was not my truest self. If there were occasions when my grape turned into a raisin and my joy bell lost its resonance, please forgive me. Charge it to my head and not to my heart. My head — so limited in its finitude; my heart, which is boundless in its love for the human family. I am not a perfect servant. I am a public servant doing my best against the odds. As I develop and serve, be patient: God is not finished with me yet.’

The secrets to a great speech? 

  • Start strong and close stronger – your first and last words will be the ones remembered
  • Be genuine – be yourself and speak from the heart
  • Have a perspective on your topic – don’t sit on the fence
  • Deliver your message with passion, and then you will appear confident, even if you arent;
  • Show introspection and self-awareness
  • Act and speak ethically – Since public speaking fears are so common, realise the tremendous power of influence that you hold. Use this power responsibly


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