For many, 2016 was a bizarre and somewhat tragic year. Music icons lost their lives, acts of terror rattled the world, and most famously a reality television personality/business mogul became the leader of the free world. The most peculiar part isn’t that he is currently president, but the way he was able to convince the American people he was the right one for the job.
For centuries, great leaders have risen to power without relying on the sway of television and mass media, but rather by conveying their message through their own unique linguistic style. These standouts made history based on their ability to move people with nothing but the words out of their mouth. Not only the words themselves but how they said them had a tremendous impact on their legacy. Although not the most upbeat message and ideology, Adolf Hitler was able to climb to power in early 20th century Germany because he could deliver his message to the people passionately and confidently. I have much doubt that the holocaust would have happened on the global scale that it did had he not possessed such outstanding linguistic ability – not that I am thrilled he did possess this quality. Imagine if he spoke like we all imagine the surfers in our childhood cartoons, few phrases, lack of a fancy vocabulary, slang words, etc. Do you think he could have moved people like he did? The same can be said about Martin Luther King Jr., although his movement of people through words had a positive impact on the masses. He is remembered for his “I Have a Dream” speech where he inspired a nation with his linguistic style, furthermore, recordings of him will be played around the world for decades to come. So, you can see that historically there has been a theme in leaders, they have soared to success through their use of articulate and powerful language to change the world.
Which brings us back to our current president, Donald J. Trump – the story of a dark horse if you will. For likely the first time in American History, or at least in my lifetime, we had a candidate that was the opposite of everything we had become accustomed to in a politician. And keep in mind we've spent the past 8 years listening to Barack Obama, who is a phenomenal public speaker, so our bar has been set pretty high. It’s unfair to say that he has no linguistic style, because his different use of language is in itself his own style. BUT linguistic style as we know it died the day he entered the 2016 presidential race. Donald Trump managed to move the masses disregarding “political correctness”, and speaking without an extensive vocabulary – however he did make up words along the way (I.e. bigly) and considering the confidence he said them with I would have believed they were real words if I didn’t know any better. Voter turnout in certain areas of the country was higher than it ever had been, so clearly his messaged was received by the people even though he had taken a vastly different and significantly less eloquent way. His success with this has really put an end to needing “great public speaker” on your resume to become president or effective leader.