Monday, July 6, 2009

Invoking emotion through one individual: Ann Nixon Cooper and Obama’s victory speech

Do you want to make an impact with your idea? Then make people care about your idea. And how do you make people care about your idea? By adding an element of emotion to the idea. One way to add emotion is by doing what Mother Theresa describes aptly: “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will”. In other words, when it comes to our hearts, one individual trumps the masses. (source: Made to stick). Let’s see how Obama used this principle in his victory speech.

Obama wanted everyone to see what America has gone through in the past century. He could very well have summarized them one by one e.g. slavery, cars, planes, depression, world war etc. However, he decided to do it differently. This is what he said:

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voices heard in this election, except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106-years-old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America, heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes, we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes, we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, and a new sense of common purpose. Yes, we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbour and tyranny threatened the world she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes, we can

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma and preacher from Atlanta who told people that, “We shall overcome.” Yes, we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched a finger to a screen, and cast her vote because after 106 years in America through the best of time and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes, we can.

What a difference addition of Ann Nixon Cooper made to the narration!

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