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Over the weekend, I got a speech over the Vital Speeches transom of over 15,000 words.
On Monday morning, I replied to its author, Steven Schwartzberg, who is running for U.S. Congress in Illiinois' 5th District:
Steven, thanks for sending “America and the Kingdom,” delivered to the Chicago Literary Club on Oct. 2. Question: Did the delivery bleed over into the early morning hours of Oct. 3?
Seriously, Steven: The speech is full of interesting ideas and observations and references to leading thinkers from Abigail Adams through Luis Zingales.
But we can’t publish this because we can’t AFFORD to print it. At 15,683 words, it would take up half an issue of Vital Speeches. By my rough reckoning, it took you 104 minutes to deliver.
That must be a modern-day record. Fidel Castro would be impressed.
Was there an intermission?
Though I can’t publish this learned but overlong speech, I am curious about its motivations—and its strategic contribution to your current candidacy for Congress? Do you really believe a speech is the best vehicle, in this post-Gutenberg-press age, for telling the political and religious history of the world?
Or are you the first political candidate ever to rehearse a fillibuster before a live audience? (Well, they were live when you began, in any case!)
Or perhaps am I missing something—for instance, the Chicago Literary Club kicks it old-school, and your speech was critiqued for being too short?
Steven, I tease.
I truly am interested to hear your thoughts, partly on behalf of professional speechwriters who read Vital Speeches, and who are often asked by conference organizers to write 45-minute talks and who must argue everyone down to the generally understood modernday max of 20 minutes.
What’s up with this epic address?
Write when you can—and at whatever length you wish.
David Murray, Editor & PublisherVital Speeches of the Day
I heard back within the hour:
Thank you for your kind (and humorous) comments about my speech. The Chicago Literary Club is old school and while my talk was long, even by CLC standards (you were exactly right: it took 104 minutes), it did receive a standing ovation from the roughly hundred people in attendance.
The thinking behind the address is first of all a belief that its substance needed to be said and second, as a feature of my campaign, a belief that the American people—including the people of the Illinois 5th District—are tired of mindless, emotion-laden, ten-second sound bites and eager for serious principles and analysis that they can sink their teeth into.
In broad brush we, as a country, have gone in a swinging pendulum fashion from a fairly anti-intellectual president, George W. Bush, to the more scholarly Barack Obama, to the systematically mendacious Donald Trump (who sometimes seems to deny that truth is even relevant). I believe the voters are eager to see the pendulum swing back, and maybe even come to rest in a more sensible place, if that were possible. My speech is intended as a contribution to a more sensible and more wholesome American politics.
I realize that my speech is a little long for Vital Speeches, but I wonder if you would consider publishing an excerpt together with a link from which the full text could be downloaded along the lines of what is available currently on my webpage (http://www.schwartzbergforcongress.com/news-letters/)
In any case, I am grateful to be in contact. Who knows, I have given shorter speeches during the course of the campaign and may yet do so again.
All the Best,
We don't publish excerpts, because as it says on our 83-year-old masthead: "Because Vital Speeches of the Day was founded on the belief that it is only in the unedited and unexpurgated speech that the view of the speaker is truly communicated to the reader, all speeches are printed in full."
I asked Schwartzberg's permission to run our exchange here and told him to send us the text of any speech whose duration that is shorter than the Congressional term he seeks.
And onward we stumbled, I, Schwartzberg and Western Civilization—in our clumsy search for the happy medium between the emotion-laden soundbite, and the oratorical history of the world, in real time. —DM