President Donald J. Trump, arguably the most powerful man alive today, is incredibly insensitive. He lacks empathy and basic social skills. Despite his numerous flaws, there is one thing Trump is: a powerful and successful orator.
Oration is the art and practice of public speaking. Most commonly an orator’s goal is to change perceptions about a political or social issue by using arguments, lines of reasoning, anecdotes and illustrations to incite the audience to believe their position. Often the speaker will appeal to the audience’s emotions, instead of using logic to prove a point.
While the art of oration dates back thousands of years, there are many 20th century orators who have become well known for their rhetorical skills. Individuals like Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy and Adolf Hitler are recognized for their powerful orations. Each of these men were able to shock, excite, and motivate millions to forward their social and political agendas.
A great orator presents new and shocking ideas that motivate an audience to believe, as Trump does through strategic oration skills. He knows his audience and approaches it accordingly, sometimes straddling the border between truth and fiction.
Trump’s infamous border wall, one of his major campaign promises, is one of the most well known and outrageous proposals. While Trump is still attempting to locate enough funding for the wall, as his plan for Mexico to fund it fell through, this promise is still popular among his white-dominated supporters. It is estimated that eight million illegal aliens hold jobs in the U.S. while there are 6.7 million U.S. citizens without employment. Through building the wall, Trump promises to lower unemployment rates by eradicating illegal immigrants.
While improvising off-prompter in a July 2017 rally, Trump deemed illegal immigrants “animals,” “predators,” and “criminal aliens who poison our communities.” He accused immigrants of torturing and murdering young girls, not citing any specific examples of when such incidents had occurred, yet the mainly white crowd was appeased nevertheless.
One third of Trump supporters reported an annual household income of more than $100,000, and Trump has become an expert at appealing to them. When speaking in front of wealthy white collar supporters, Trump follows a teleprompter. His speeches are clear, concise, follow a structure and address specific issues.
Conversely, when Trump speaks at rallies to the working class, he often goes off the cuff. It’s evident from his poor English, exaggerated hand gestures, lack of structure and use of pop culture terms like “fake news.” Trump is aware that different audiences will respond differently to his tactics and he alters his speech accordingly.
To secure a platform, a successful orator points out what he believes to be inaccurate beliefs the audience may hold and establishes arguments that align better with their own. Since the public has become aware of Russia’s involvement in the presidential election, Trump has directed all the blame on the Obama administration, despite the ongoing investigation into his involvement with the Russians. In a tweet, he wrote, “I have been much tougher on Russia than Obama, just look at the facts. Total Fake News!”
At a speech last September at the United Nations, Trump warned about the increasing security threat North Korea poses, shortly after threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea if the U.S. is forced to defend itself. While blaming the Clintons for “allowing” North Korea to increase its nuclear weapons program, Trump called Kim Jong-un “short and fat,” clearly escalating tensions.
Trump’s confidence as an orator clearly exceeds his presidential skills. Despite his many faults as the leader of the free world, Trump has mastered the rhetorical art.
– Shawna Bannerman, Assistant Editor