Tuesday, August 18, 2009

On Being A Great Communicator

Remember Ronald Reagan, "The Great Communicator"?

Ran across an interesting blog called "Indications: Environmental Communication & Culture blog." Its shtick has to do with how and how well we communicate about environmental matters. The blog's self-description says this:

"How well we communicate with each other about Nature and environmental affairs will determine how well we address the ecological crisis."

I think this idea has merit. If you recall back to great moments of communication, you will realize just how words can stick, can change the way the world views an event or a person. Examples that come to mind: Neil Armstrong's moon landing, "One small step for man, one giant step for mankind," is not only memorable for its turn of phrase, but for the way it cemented America's pride in its space and science programs, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMINSD7MmT4. Martin Luther King's "I have a dream," was not only a powerful speech in its moment, but became a guiding light for generations of civil rights seekers, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbUtL_0vAJk. Or consider George H.W. Bush's "Read my lips. No new taxes." It went down as a rare example of a politician meaning what he says, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5DZBFbMdjI. And to this day, the phrase "Read my lips" is evoked when a politician wants you to believe he means business.

There is even the occasional turn of phrase so powerful that history reassigns it a favorable memory, despite its context. For example, Ronald Regan's exclamation, "There you go again," during the presidential debate with Walter Mondale, has been associated favorably with Reagan's strength as a communicator, while Mondale's retort laying out Reagan's disingenuous past promises has been entirely forgotten, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=It0Dtm1gFFQ.

Of course, it swings the other way too. President Bill Clinton made himself into history's fool with his impeachment testimony, "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is," http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SaZBm-d5Yqs&NR=1. Or check out this YouTube clip full of political gaffs, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfZg4UIuZe4.

Don't you just love YouTube?

Anyway, getting back to the blog, Indications: Environmental Communication & Culture, I like what they are doing. Mixing it up, the blog takes a look at various forms of communication, and the impacts on society's thinking about environmental matters - everything from a serious piece on "America's Scientific Illiteracy" to this week's presentation of a series of film clips of families trying to be more environmental, a stream of eye-openers, humor and all-round entertainment along with a great message. I've embedded one of the trailers here, in case you don't have time to watch them all, but I strongly encourage you to visit this blog, enjoy the entertainment, and explore the rest of their posts about communication and the environment.

By the way, I couldn't resist the poster of President Ronald Reagan - the Great Communicator - considering how timely its theme ("speaks out against socialized medicine) is. I found it at yet another blog, "More or Less Bunk," by Colorado State University history professor Jonathan Rees, who used the photo for a great post entitled, "In which I write two nice things about Ronald Reagan." I may have to use it again, the next time I go into a digressive health care rant.


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