At the beginning of his speech, the President of the United States read the names of the teachers killed at the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. and one could hear gasps of grief rising from the bereaved.
“Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts.”
In this, the president answered the two great questions that all speeches, great and small, must answer quickly:
“Why this speech and why this audience.”
President Obama, speaking from the depths of despair spoke to the hearts of those wounded souls gathered together in Newtown and those gathered in homes and places of worship across America and around the word.
Obama spoke of the event and offered words of comfort but it was his questions of the nation that seemed to be the heart of the speech.
His question was: “Are we doing enough” and he answered his own question: “The answer is no.”
And he continued: “Surely we can do better than this” and “Are we prepared to say we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?”
And as he reached the conclusion of his speech, he read the names of the children who had died.
Time will tell if this speech marks a seminal moment in American politics but, regardless of any possible outcome, the Newtown speech is a speech every Toastmaster should listen to and learn from a great orator speaking through the pain of past events to look forward toward a more hopeful future.