The Flower Picture and U.S. Politics

Almost every speaker at the DNC this week used the same device at least once in their speech, telling the story of the mother with 9 autistic children whose house blew away in a hurricane, who was then diagnosed with cancer and then finally sent to Iraq to fight an unjust war. Or the story of the struggling auto worker who saw his job outsourced to Korea, lost his house in the mortgage crisis, and then lost out on the Supreme Court nomination he was counting on.

I’m sure there are “Making a Connection to the Everyman” chapters in every political speechwriting book. I find it hard to believe that it works, but it must.

Every time I hear the device used, I can’t help but thinking of the Dear Liar episode of WKRP in Cincinnati, where jealous newsman Les Nessman stole the story of Bobby from his colleague Bailey Quarters and read it on the air:

My tour of the wards was something I’ll not soon forget. Everywhere I looked were young faces, filled with promise that will not be realized, dreams that will never come true. But the event that summed up the experience for this reporter came as I was about to leave. I felt a tug on my skirt — at — at — at my shirt — and looked down into the face of a little boy named Bobby. He’s ten years old, and unable to speak, but he reached up and he handed me a picture he had drawn, a crude rendering of a flower… For in this primitive drawing, Bobby had managed to convey a sense of the true beauty that dwells within his soul. Speaking as someone who someday hopes to bear children — to bear children on my shoulders, men do that you know! — I would like to say that I’ll never forget little Bobby, and I’ll cherish his flower always.

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