Business, Community & Government

Delivering Your Message

Doris Kearns Goodwin

Lesson time 11:13 min

Doris talks about how leaders must tailor the way they communicate to the most popular mediums of the time. She also discusses how she believes presidents and citizens should interact with the press.

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Topics include: Tailor Your Message to the Current Medium


[MUSIC PLAYING] - What makes a great speech fundamentally is whether it produces action. It's not simply the words that matter. It's wonderful if words come down over time, and they have in it a ring of idealism or a ring of truth about the Declaration of Independence or what America stands for. But what you're really hoping from a speech is that you're mobilizing people to take some sort of action or to feel different about something. One of the reasons why FDR's first inaugural is considered one of the great speeches in presidential history is because that sheer confidence that he projected to the country. - So first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have is fear itself. INSTRUCTOR: He said to the audience, and thus to the American people, this is not your fault what's happened. The people are not responsible for this situation of the Depression. It's the leadership that was responsible. And I'm promising you a new kind of leadership if you'll work with me as citizens and an army might work together. And then he said, I'm going to go to the Congress, and I have a lot of legislation that I want them to pass to get you back to work, to get the banks worked out, et cetera, et cetera. But he said, if they don't do it, I'm going to take action as if we were at war. I will make these things happen. I'll take executive action. And it was said that after that single speech, that the country's mood changed. This is the magic of leadership-- that somehow, he got into the psyche of the country, and that same man who had had confidence from the time he had polio, that he would somehow be able to go back in public life again, that same man who had worked and worked to get himself to seem to be able to walk. He projected, as Doc Roosevelt, that confidence onto the country. There's a wonderful story of a man who reportedly wrote in, and he said-- before the speech, he said, my wife is mad at me. We've lost our dog. I've lost my job. My roof fell off. Everything was terrible. But now you're there, and everything's going to be all right. So somehow, when you're able to change actual feelings toward a piece of legislation, or if you're able to change the mood of a country, or you're able to change the tone of sentiment, that's when a speech really works. So it has to be the setting, and the call for whatever you're calling for has to make sense in what you're doing. But when it does, it's one of those magic things where words and a speech can really change things for people. I think the other example would be-- besides FDR's first inaugural would be Lincoln's second inaugural. It's in March of 1865. The war is clearly almost one for the North. It could have been a triumphal message. But instead, it was anything but that. He said that both sides had read the same Bible, both prayed to the same God, Neither's prayers were fully answered. In other words, he was assuming responsibility for slavery on both the...

About the Instructor

For more than 50 years, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has studied great American presidents. Now the Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you leadership through the lens of U.S. presidential history. With timeless stories of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and LBJ, Doris shares practical wisdom and a template for honing leadership skills. Manage a crisis, craft a message, and guide a team like extraordinary leaders of the past.

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Doris Kearns Goodwin

Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin teaches you how to develop the leadership qualities of exceptional American presidents.

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