The Year in Rhetoric

There appears to be an enduring interest in long-form eloquence

One of the three most popular Beyond the Commons posts of the last 12 months was this video of Bob Rae addressing the House on a quiet Friday afternoon this month. For whatever it’s worth, 162 readers recommended it to their Facebook friends, more than anything else posted to this corner.

You could draw any number of conclusions from such a reaction, but I’ll lay claim to one in particular: an enduring interest in long-form eloquence. We have may long ago lost our patience for hours-long addresses, but there remains a certain craving for the sight and sound of a politician speaking resoundingly, passionately and at length. The media culture may prize the soundbite, but the quip does not satisfy us. We want to hear our leaders speak. That’s how we know who they are.

And on that note, several other performances worthy of note.

From this spring, Michael Ignatieff’s speech to the Liberal conference in Montreal. From this summer, various clips of Mr. Ignatieff on the stump. From this fall, the Finance Minister’s warning of pirates and the Prime Minister’s remarks to supporters in Edwards, Ontario. All of which should give you insight not only into 2010, but also into any election that should occur in 2011.

A look through the respective archives of Mr. Harper and Mr. Ignatieff may provide other moments of eloquence or insight, but those are the moments that come to mind for me now. For the sheer weight of the matters discussed, the House’s brief consideration of the mission in Afghanistan is of note too.

None of which though may quite match the half hour Robert Fowler—not technically a politician—spent lecturing the Liberal conference in March. However you judge the content of Mr. Fowler’s words, we could certainly benefit from more of that kind of audacity.

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