The Best and Worst Speeches of 2006

What do Mel Gibson, Ken Burns, Hugo Chavez and Arnold Schwarzenegger have in common? They all made the Best and Worst List for 2006 in Rhetoric.

Communications coach, LeeAundra Temescu has been analyzing public speech for almost twenty years and says that this year was particularly noteworthy because of the attention the good and not -so-good received from the media. In the past 12 months, the power of words and language made themselves known in a big way. George Clooney’s Oscar acceptance speech, Mel Gibson’s drunken rant, Senator George Allen’s “macaca” remarks were all covered extensively by the press.

Temescu feels that this inaugural Best and Worst List not only has novelty value but can also provide insight to anyone trying to become a better communicator. “People learn from watching the best. They sometimes learn even more from watching the mistakes of others, the worst.”

Here’s Temescu’s list based on those events which attracted the most attention and had the biggest impact:

The Three Best Rhetorical Moments of 2006

1. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s State of the State Address

Temescu advises, “Every politician in the world should watch this speech and learn. This address marked the beginning of of a remarkable political rehabilitation. From his lowest approval rating ever to a landslide re-election victory just nine months later, Schwarzenegger demonstrated how a speech can create real change. It is textbook perfect political apologia.”

2. Ken Burns Commencement Address to Georgetown University

According to Temescu, “This speech isn’t as well known as the others on the list but it should be. It is a beautifully written address that does what he’s famous for, making history relevant to our lives today. The final passage is a masterpiece of insight, brevity and simple eloquence.”

3. George Clooney’s Academy Award Acceptance Speech

“I’m not one for getting too political in Oscar speeches,” says Temescu but she adds that Clooney’s reaction to host Jon Stewart’s opening jokes about Hollywood being “out of touch” was “pretty profound, concise and fluent for being off the cuff. He was also funny which is a big plus.”

The Three Worst Rhetorical Moments of 2006 (in reverse order saving the worst for last)

3. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s speech to the United Nation’s General Assembly.

“You can call the President of the United States a “”devil” anywhere else in the world and get away with it but not in the chambers of the General Assembly.” Chavez’s breach of decorum probably cost Venezuela a position on the Security Council.

2. Pope Benedict XVI’s lecture before the University of Regensburg

Benedict’s ill-advised reference to a 14th century Byzantine emperor’s remarks on the “evil and inhuman” nature of Islam caused a firestorm and created even more tension between Islam and Christianity.

And the worst rhetorical moment(s) of 2006…

1. A three-way tie: Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic rant, Michael Richards’ racist rant at the Laugh Factory and (now former) Senator George Allen’s infamous “macaca” remarks.

Temescu can only shake her head, “Need I say more?”

The Contrary Public Speaker is an executive communications coaching firm based in Los Angeles. Founded by national award winning public speaker, author and commentator, LeeAundra Temescu, it provides high-level presentation skills, in-the-moment training and executive presence for top-level managers and professionals.

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