During his speech at the National Rifle Association event, Donald Trump referred to U.S. senator Elizabeth Warren as "Pocahontas."
That was Trump's way to discredit her claim of being part Native American.
It also sounds exactly like we all talked in the old neighborhood. And that kind of raw rhetoric is part of the president's genius stagecraft.
Many forget that Trump grew up in Queens, New York. Not Manhattan. Although his section of Queens was not poor-Bronx or downtown Jersey City, New Jersey (pre-gentrification), it had much of the rough-and-tumble ethos of those mid-20th century urban areas.
In the old neighborhood, everyone had a nickname which stuck.
My uncle had red hair. Although it quickly disappeared, until he died he was called "Red."
The boy "Bobby Around the Corner" remained "Bobby Around the Corner" decades after he no longer lived around the corner.
We children were authentically shocked that, when the elderly woman we called "Vinegar Feet" died, the Jersey Journal didn't refer to her by that name in the obituary.
In addition to nicknames, there was a direct way of describing everything.
The boys in ABC family "were headed for jail." They were not described as "youth at risk." It wasn't until our generation went to college, then worked in Corporate America that we were socialized to be long-winded and indirect.
Remember those term papers and business memos which used lots of words to say nothing? Was the objective really that: not to say anything?
Looking back to all that, it seemed like there was a grand puppet master manipulating the masses into wordy powerlessness. In return for surrendering our soul, we received an academic degree and lifetime employment.
What Trump seems to be promising is a return to the power of language. That resonates. Otherwise he wouldn't have been elected. And his speeches wouldn't be receiving so much media attention
It wasn't until 2005, when I launched this blog, that I circled back to my rhetorical roots from the mean streets of Jersey City. Immediately, my voice was noticed. It was heard - around the world.
Takeaway to public speakers: Prepare for your speech by sitting in a coffee shop in an un-gentrified neighborhood. Listen. Figure out what is so compelling. Then apply that to what you will say and how.
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