As we’ve analyzed the speeches in Beowulf and discussed how they illustrate the traits of leadership that were prized during that time period, it is important to consider what traits of leadership we expect in modern leaders, and how we expect them to convey these traits to us through their use of language.

In class you read excerpts from a variety of different leaders over the past 60 years. In each of these speeches you identified leadership qualities you believed were important:

  • Compassion and empathy for one’s fellow man.
  • Humility.
  • A focus on bringing others together.
  • Wisdom through experience.
  • Education and intelligence.
  • Reliability and trustworthiness.
  • Strong moral or ethical convictions.
  • Being able to relate to others or “real”.

Many of these speeches utilized the same techniques in language to express these traits of leadership – here is the list of most common techniques from our notes in class:

  • Allusions to other great leaders to cement education, moral and ethical convictions and credibility.
  • Repetition of third person pronouns such as ‘we’ and ‘us’  to bring the audience and speaker together and unify them behind a common cause.
  • Descriptions of lived experiences to illustrate wisdom through experience and to humanize the speaker and appeal to pathos.
  • Diction that contained strong, assertive language to illustrate a speaker’s seriousness and sincerity, their morals and ethics, or their willingness to fight for their cause and selflessness in giving up their own life/time for that cause.
  • Parallelism to reinforce the speaker’s beliefs, or to show they are confident that they have the authority to make repeated requests of higher authorities (or the audience).

While we only read one page excerpts from each of these speeches, you can find the full version of them below. I encourage you to watch them and continue your analysis of these speakers’ language use, and how they use language to demonstrate they possess the traits we desire of our leaders. Also, examine how they use their body language – though we haven’t discussed this yet in class, it is important to remember that speeches are a verbal/visual experience…though we read the text of these speeches and analyze their language use, the speaker’s physical presentation is just as important.

Click here to read the excerpt from class, or what the videos below.

The Difference Between Winning and Succeeding by John Wooden

Nelson Mandela, 1964 ‘I am prepared to die’

Malala Yousafzai addresses United Nations Youth Assembly

Martin Luther King Jr. at Stanford University – The Other America

Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech

Barack Obama’s Presidential Announcement