Some will argue that BCE’s speech in front of the ARP to be officially named as president of Tunisia was not his most electric speech, that it was a far cry from what was expected, or that it failed to deliver on unreasonably high expectations, and they might be correct.
If we want to apply basic speech writing and political messaging principles to BCE’s speech and also keeping in mind the context of such an event, we come up with the following points:
- In terms of the speech contents, he started strong with a simple yet clear speech outline. This is a good lesson for amateur speech writers who try to say too much and end up saying nothing. However, BCE did not appear strong and in control. He appeared to be struggling with the prepared text, and this took away from the coherence of the message being conveyed. It is quite evident that he either did not prepare the speech, or that he had spent very little time rehearsing what might possibly be his most famous speech.
- He delivered a balanced speech by reminding us of key points. In this he addressed friend and foe. He excelled by thanking the women in their active role, was equal to the task in thanking those who voted for his opponent, acknowledging those whose lives were taken too soon by peace haters and by offering an olive branch to those whose ideologies might be different than his, but whose support is needed to move this country forward. He assured his fans and detractors that he would be everyone’s president and that national unity is needed to complete this journey.
- Impactful and memorable lines – usually a specialty of his, was missing in this speech. The speech lacked emphasis on the realities facing us, on the sagging morale and lack of confidence, and made no reference and gave no assurances to the desperately young and the very poor who have become political pawns. It lacked the knockout punch and call to action, like “ask not what your country can do for you…” or, “I have a dream”, or “yes we can”. I was looking for a leader that would provide strength in a troubled time and wisdom in unchartered future. Instead, what I heard were words, and uncoordinated thoughts of an elderly man struggling to speak lucidly. I was left with more consternation for his physical abilities, but somewhat assured by his good intentions and the desire to do the right thing.
- Where this speech failed in seizing an opportunity is by amplifying words by drawing contrasts between the past and the present. A good example would be MLK’s “I have a dream speech”. Interestingly, a tactic that came naturally to BCE during his campaign tour.
On the delivery and technical performance I believe that BCE failed in this momentous historical event. He was very much uncomfortable with the setting and perhaps for good reason: illness, cold weather, old age, and long exhausting schedule. Everything we have grown to expect from him in his speeches during the last 2 years was missing and that is because he is most comfortable when he free-lances by mixing a few anecdotes and Koranic verses, often out of context. He lacked his eloquence, strength, spontaneity, charisma, cadence, piercing eyes, and sharpness that made you wish for endless speeches. In this he convinced me that he is no Habib Bourguiba.