By Hema Senanayake –
The words and the way words are spoken are the operational vehicles of inspiration. In order to win, the leader should be inspirational. This is the only way how the leader can build his image to which voters respond. In an election it is the voter response that will make one win. I learnt this lesson from an article published by Professor Stanly Fish of the University of Illinois.
John Kerry was supposed to win but lost to George W. Bush in the presidential race of 2004. During the presidential campaign Professor Stanly Fish at the University of Illinois at Chicago made a seemingly simple point and hinted that Kerry might be defeated. He came to this conclusion after his students of freshman class submitted their judgments after listened to two recorded speeches of Bush and Kerry. Professor Stanly made the students to listen to them studiously. Students’ comments in regard to Kerry’s speech are interesting. Some commented; “difficult to understand,” “can’t seem to make his point clearly,” “I’m not sure what he’s saying,” and “he’s kind of ‘skippy’, all over the place.” Kerry was to be known for his oratory. But orators do make mistakes sometimes.
Having reviewed students’ comments Stanly Fish insisted that the words and the way words are spoken are the operational vehicles of inspiration. He wrote, “Words are not just the cosmetic clothing of some underlying integrity; they are the operational vehicles of that integrity, the visible manifestation of the character to which others respond.”
Now, I humbly invite Mr. Maithripala Sirisena to carefully review the comments he himself made to the BBC’s Sandeshaya Radio program (on December 05th). If Professor Stanly’s research was repeated with students in a Sri Lankan University they would have echoed the same conclusions in regard to Maithripala’s comments as did by their counterparts in the Illinois University for Kerry’s speech. They would say;
“… difficult to understand,” “can’t seem to make his point clearly,” “I’m not sure what he’s saying,” and “he’s kind of ‘skippy’, all over the place.”
This did not go unnoticed to Mahinda’s campaign. They criticized that, “Maithripala Sirisena’s statements reflected the utter confusion in the opposition camp as regards far reaching constitutional changes envisaged in case he won the presidency. It was further pointed out that Maithripala Sirisena had also declared that in accordance with the powers vested in the presidency, he would be the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, therefore responsible for national security. The presidential candidate also declared that the subject of good governance would come under him, though Parliament and cabinet of ministers were to receive powers.”
Does anybody call the above view as an abolition of Executive Presidency? Is this how the opposition is going to abolish the Executive Presidency? I am confused.
I insist again that words are the operational vehicles of integrity. In my view his comments to BBC’s program was a disaster. But there are chances that no one around him would tell him about it. Instead they might have praised him for his “great comments.” I myself observed a similar situation a couple of days ago. Let me tell the story in brief. It might help you to understand what is going on around him.
It was a farewell gathering. One of the top diplomats is leaving to another duty station. At the end of the function the gentleman was to address the audience. It was a nice setting with a podium placed in front of the audience. After the talk the gentleman was led to a hall in downstairs where some snacks and meals were arranged. He was accompanied by two of his close associates, one being a junior officer and the other person was a doctor. I happened to go behind them. Both were praising for his great speech. They literarily said that, “speech was great”, “you touched all areas that needed to be talk about”, “very appropriate”. In fact the speech was a disaster. He failed to make a single unique point to impress the audience. Yet why his close associates did praise his speech? Perhaps the junior is submissive and the other person is not supposed to upgrade his speaking abilities.
The same thing could be happening with Maithripala for the same two reasons. He could be praised for his “great speeches” by his meekly obedient staff and close associates along with the mangers of his media campaign. Sack them all (or leave them alone), they are not his friends. Instead put a team of a few (may be one or two) who could make him philosophically ready for all speech events. Let them brief him after each speech or at least before the next speech. Make it their job. By doing that he put a system in place in his inner circle to increase his inspirational ability.
I remember, once the Obama’s speech writer told the media that he made it a habit to be in the audience when Obama speaks in order to plan for his next speech. Now, Maithripala is the presidential candidate. No one would come and tell his mistakes unless he makes a systemic arrangement to help him improve his strengths and reduce his weaknesses in regard to speeches. If he does it, he would have a better chance to win.