[Review] The Greatest American Speeches

SpeechesBookI am a thinker. I am a writer, a scientist, a poet. I invent, propose, challenge, and contemplate. My weapons will never be from this physical body that is altogether far too weak, but instead, in the words that spew from my mouth and my fingers. Language is the only power that I hold in our world, where any person can attempt to persuade and beautify the world.

It is, therefore, quite odd to write a review for The Greatest American Speeches, a compilation of speeches throughout American history. How does one attempt to review the rhetoric of Lincoln’s famously short Gettysburg address, or of MLKs resounding dream? I shall not think it possible for me to attach judgment upon works that have changed history.

But these thinkers, like all thinkers before them, are always speaking with a purpose in mind. This book, unfolding from John Withrop’s acquittal of his post as Massachusetts’ Governor, to Rudy Giuliani’s testament of the tragedy in New York City, presents an evolution of speech. Not only does the syntax, structure, and rhetoric of the speakers change, so do the values and customs of their audience.  Tracing America’s history through these pivotal speeches, a modern audience finds truth and beauty in the many different arguments.

Yet, not every argument is beautiful from a modern perspective. Intermixed with calls for Women’s Rights and for true democratic change are speeches of fear and hate – McCarthy’s fear mongering of the Cold War and Nixon’s denial of Watergate can not and should not be marginalized for their message. Instead, this book embodies everything that language can do to a population. We can become inspired, excited, and motivated – or fearful, hateful, and despicable. Language is double-edged in all respects.

Studying the works of the greats of the past only presents the case for rightful and just arguments in the future. These eloquent presentations of the mind, drawing on inspirations from the entire civilization of thought, must be preserved and pushed forwards for our future. The only hope for peace is through discourse – even when it is discourse of horrific acts.

I am a thinker. We are all thinkers. Our nation are smart, intelligent thinkers. This world, every human being, has the capacity for intelligent thought and bright discourse. Let us draw upon our power as thinkers, and proceed forwards to make the world a better future.

[Backlink to Goodreads Review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1173078544]

Flick flick

Flick flick.

The LED lights flash for a moment before regaining their composure, reminding me of the storm. Working in the dead of the night helped me focus, but without any signal, it’s easy to tunnel vision into the screen in front of me.

Flick flick.

Hmm. Maybe I should check on that crummy wiring, the leftovers of a DIY install. Knew we should have gone with a professional electrician.

Flick flick, flick fli-BOOM

I visibly jump as the basement is plunged into darkness, and my laptop readjusts to having no AC power with a small chirp. “MOM, THE POWER IS OUT!” I shout, but my parents are asleep. Grabbing my phone, I thank Apple engineers for their flashlight and stumble upstairs into my bedroom.

Looking out the window, the entire world looks different. Behind a veil of rain, the sky seems brighter than ever before- and yet, more ominous. The common cornerstones of my cul-de-sac have vanished. The lamp at the corner, that was still a warm sodium glow in my freshmen year but has since been replaced with a reliable white LED, no longer illuminated the slinking shadow. My neighbors, whose small porch light was always on to welcome home the tired night shift family member I would sometimes catch opening the garage door past 3 am in my bouts of insomnia, had a dark doorway. Even the Christmas decorations on our porch, which have really been out there since two years ago but we never took down and just unplugged them but this year we didn’t even do that, were finally off. Everything was calm.

In my house, the familiar blue light of my iPhone docking station was dim. Instead of flashing a “TIME NOT SET” at me, it simply said… Nothing. I instinctively reach over for the touch sensitive lamp I bought with my mom at a garage sale a couple years back, but no matter how hard I hit it, it doesn’t spring to life. Everything was different.

A suddenly flash in the corner of my eye catches my attention, and I wheel around just in time to catch another bolt of lightening. Silently, it crashes through the murky darkness, jaggedly splitting the sky. The blue penstroke casts shadows on the familiar, momentarily stunning me with grace and beauty.

Even though I have lived here for the past four years, I have never seen this area plunged into darkness. With a sudden shift of perspective, everything was different. And then…

Flick flick. And the lights were back.

How much of the darkness would I remember? Is it possible, to recall an image of the silhouette and mysteries when light breaths through the landscape? Clearly, it wasn’t a dream- but why did the episode feel so hazy and helpless?

Plunging into darkness and then back into light, I saw how temperamental our world is. In the blink of an eye, everything we previously knew, gets turned upside down with a change in perspective. 2015 is a year where I know these radical changes will come to be, but… All I can do is brace myself for whatever shadows and mysteries pop up.

Flick flick. Where will the next lights shine?