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Pres. Lee’s Speech

Posted June. 15, 2010 13:53,   


At a Conservative Party convention in 1980, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, “A lady does not change direction,” amid rising criticism of “Thatcherism.” She expressed London’s stern commitment not to back down from its policy of economic liberalism. Great speeches throughout history have reflected the spirit of the given era and changed the flow of history in all major milestones. On a hot sunny day in 1963, the Rev. Martin Luther King gave the speech “I Have a Dream” at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The speech changed the history of the U.S. civil rights movement.

York University professor emeritus David V. J. Bell defined politics as talk, so language is perhaps the most important means in politics. Former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone said, “Politics is a verb, not an adjective.” He suggested that political language should not be merely beautiful phrases, but should contain commitment to implement policy to gain the momentum necessary to persuade the public. In his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama used the phrase “Yes, we can!” to woo American voters, who were tired and depressed from the Iraq war and recession.

In his weekly radio address Monday, President Lee Myung-bak said he will accept public sentiment on the need for change, which was confirmed by the ruling party’s defeat in the June 2 local elections. He expressed his commitment to follow basic principles in state administration, however. “The government will solidly maintain the direction of state policy in light of identity and vision that the Republic of Korea must pursue,” he said. “National security cannot be a matter for political strife.” He also urged a reshuffle of the presidential office and the Cabinet in an efficient fashion, reinforced communication with the younger generation, and enhancement of the centrist policy of pragmatism. Glaring rhetoric is not necessarily a good thing, but certain supporters of the president said in their general assessment that his speech lacked emotional elements to touch the hearts of the public.

In the corporate sector, productive workers are highly praised, but unlike in politics, eloquent speakers do not necessarily earn a good reputation. Participants at presidential events say President Lee talks in a manner that is too pragmatic or businesslike perhaps because he worked in the corporate world for a long time. So even people ready to be touched are sometimes left feeling nonchalant. In politics, leaders can move the public by giving emotionally charged messages through symbolism, just as much as they can through achievement.

Editorial Writer Park Seong-won (swpark@donga.com)