Heroes rise during troubled times

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Heroes rise during troubled times

Chinese. When I took Chinese lessons in the early 1980s, some students in my class had a hard time with pronunciation.

The language has four tones - long, short, high and low - and they couldn’t imitate the musical tones for over a month. When we went to a noraebang together, we realized that those struggling with pronunciation were tone-deaf. For example, they couldn’t keep a stable, level sound when they were supposed to produce a long, high note. Some ended up giving up their attempts to learn Chinese. But after a couple of months, the situation changed.

Those tone-deaf classmates who survived the initial ordeal ended up far better at pronunciation. That’s when I realized that the harder you try, the better you learn. The same goes for speeches. A stutterer can become a great orator. The story of British King George VI was made into the movie,

“The King’s Speech.” To cope with his speech impediment, George hired Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue. On Sept. 3, 1939, after the United Kingdom declared war on Nazi Germany, he made a speech that has been remembered and celebrated since.

“In this grave hour, perhaps the most fateful in our history, I send to every household of my peoples, both at home and overseas, this message, spoken with the same depth of feeling for each one of you as if I were able to cross your threshold and speak to you myself.” He spoke slowly but calmly and resolutely, and his address united the people of Great Britain.

George VI is not alone. Winston Churchill was also a stutterer, but he made constant efforts to improve. He read books and memorized great phrases and sentences. He wrote speeches by himself and practiced over and over.

The unseen side of a great speaker is the strenuous work put in so humorous and moving messages can be delivered. Philip of Macedon said that he feared the tongue of Demosthenes more than a million Greek soldiers, but Demosthenes had a speech impediment by birth. He was so tenacious that in order to improve his posture, he hung a blade on the ceiling to train himself. When Macedonia invaded Greece, he called on Athenians to rise up.

Just as heroes emerge in difficult times, great speeches are made in times of crisis. In a week, Park Geun-hye will make her first speech as president. She’s working hard on the speech with her aides.

The necessary conditions for a great speech are present: the combination of personal hardship and troubled times. We all know Park Geun-hye’s difficult life story. And Pyongyang has conducted a nuclear test, and the economy is struggling.

Although it wasn’t a speech, Park moved the people with a single sentence seven years ago, “What about Daejeon?” That’s what we need right now. The citizens are waiting for her to unite them. “What about the Republic of Korea?” The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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