Speaking like a Living Legend. Poised and Inclusive like Gloria Steinem

To listen to her speak, her voice robust, smooth and calm as she responded to a flurry of questions, both supportive and confrontational, you would never imagine that she is 82 years old.

(pictured above, Gloria Steinem at the Bantry Literary Festival in Ireland, July 23, 2016)

As a leader of the feminist movement in the 1960s, founder of Ms. Magazine and after writing six books (including her most recent one chronicling the incredible range of people she’s met during 40 years of traveling as a journalist and speaker that I just purchased, “My Life on the Road”), it makes sense that her age reflects her numerous accomplishments.

Up close, you will notice she is slight as a sparrow and she did accept assistance descending the dias  after speaking yesterday at the West Cork Literary Festival in Ireland.  But!

On stage, Gloria Steinem’s delivery was dynamic, funny and youthfully vigorous.

Vocal quality can be trained and improved. And yes, that’s a service I provide having developed my own professional delivery style as a network television correspondent and anchor, but that is not the purpose of this essay.

I was simply struck as I listened to Gloria, not only by the content of her responses, but by the way in which she delivered.

(pictured above, I’m next in line to meet Gloria Steinem! July 23, 2016, Bantry, Ireland)

  1. Gloria’s Humor: When someone questioned the scanty outfits and nudity of Beyonce and Kim Kardashian, Gloria deftly distinguished between the two with humor, “We should all be body proud, able to walk the streets nude and expect to be safe. Beyonce…had me at hello.. but Kim Kardashian has no content that I’m aware of.”
  2. Gloria’s Inclusiveness: She agreed with a man who asked why there weren’t more men in the room saying, “If it’s not inclusive, it isn’t feminism.”

I was most impressed how she handled opposition.

3.    Gloria’s Composure: One impassioned woman, opposing the campaign to repeal Ireland’s Eighth Amendment that prohibits abortion, spoke of her children and speculated that her adopted husband could have been aborted before going on to slam Gloria as not understanding since she had no children of her own.

A few boos rippled from the audience. The questioner was clearly in the minority in the room. But Gloria didn’t try to exclude her or shame her or make her feel embarrassed.  Gloria’s expression was soothing as she answered in dulcet tones.

“Reproductive rights respects your power to decide to have children as well as someone else’s decision not to have children….Let’s work together.”

A less-skilled and experienced person might not have maintained composure. Confrontations can topple any event.

So when Gloria spoke in support of Hillary Clinton as the best and “most truthful” candidate for US president, (the truth claim backed up by numerous fact-checking reports), I couldn’t help mentally comparing the verbal presentation styles of these two powerful and successful women.

I think their difference is largely demonstrated by their voices.  Gloria’s is warm. Rich. Soothing. Mellifluous.

By sharp contrast, Hillary’s voice is quite the opposite. She can sound grating. Shrill. Strident. Harsh.

Hillary, especially when she is defending against her e-mails, Benghazi or a Trumpish accusation, turns herself up to an excessively forceful volume and pitch.

But throughout yesterday’s program, Gloria’s delivery was full of poise. She even cursed as if she were merely sprinkling cinnamon on a latte.  Her occasional “F***” and “bullsh**” didn’t stand out as offensive. They were delivered in the same relaxed cadence as their surrounding words.  Mollifying pats part of a peaceful embrace.

Gloria and Hillary are friends. Perhaps before Mrs. Clinton accepts the official nomination as the candidate for president later this week at the Democratic National Convention, Ms. Steinem can fly to Philadelphia and give her some last minute delivery coaching.

Hillary needs to sound gracious and inclusive.  A worthy combination and one that is not exhibited by the Republican candidate.

Who, by the way, “Should not be elected, but should be hospitalized,” according to Gloria yesterday.

And finally, one of Gloria’s parting shots, in which she urged us all to pay attention to our instincts, may also have bearing on the upcoming election.  She declared,

 “If it looks like a duck and swims like a duck and sounds like a duck – but you think it’s a pig, it’s a pig.”

Okay, so Gloria’s not inclusive of everyone.

Copyright Gina London 2016.  All Rights Reserved. 

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Star Spangled Spanner

I’ve lived outside the US for several years and often write about my cultural, business and gastronomical experiences in other countries.  It’s with great pleasure then, that I put a different spin on things today – and share a perspective on my own country through the writing of my dear Irish friend and newspaper columnist Suzanne Brett. july 4 #3

(and if you’d like to read her column as it appears in the on-line version of the Cork Independent, click here!) 

After enjoying a few hours of premier class treatment, I again touched down on American soil last week after an absence of a few years. Like so many others, I’ve endured a heavy dose of Celtic Tiger blues but I’m beginning to feel like I’m in remission.

Anyway, myself and G, (my very well connected American bestie, who’d accompanied me and arranged the whole shebang) quickly checked into our hotel, changed into our glad rags and grabbed a cab.

Security was tight as we approached the residence (hint – it’s completely painted white) and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little apprehensive but also a lot excited.

The scene was so surreal. Only a few hours earlier I’d been elbow deep in laundry back home in Cork and now here I was, dressed to the nines, sat in the back of a taxi watching as US security personnel, using those mirror on a stick thingies, checked out the undercarriage of the car.

And by the way girls, I’d be lying if I said I’d have taken offence to these lads checking out my actual undercarriage … if you know what I mean. But I digress.

After examining our invitations and passports, checking us off against their list and confiscating our phones, the cab was finally waved through and we made our way up the beautiful winding driveway. Everything was pruned, landscaped and shaped to perfection.

It was kind of everything I’d expected it to be from years of watching programmes like ‘House of Cards’ and ‘The West Wing’. Those Americans certainly know how to impress, I’ll give them that.

G was taking it all in her stride and remained utterly un-phased by the entire adventure. Granted though, she’s a past master at this kind of thing having actually sat down and interviewed Clinton and Bush among others over the years. However, she handled me with consummate skill and ease and any feelings I had of being the country bumpkin visiting ‘the big shmoke’ were entirely my own, as she couldn’t have been more supportive and understanding of my awestruck-ness.

Being 4 July, the event we’d been invited to was taking place on the back lawn, and as much as I was desperate to have a nose around inside, I knew it wasn’t going to happen on this occasion. We were escorted around the side of the house and invited to partake of the spread of different foods and beverages sourced from the fifty states of the Union.

As I enjoyed a glass of delicious Kentucky bourbon (and I don’t even drink whiskey) and munched on a New York burger I simultaneously made small talk with the Kenyan Ambassador.

In between bites and sips, I was introduced to captains and captainesses of industry, all of whom seemed to have Irish connections of one kind or another. And pretty soon I started to feel like I actually belonged in such rarefied company and august surroundings.

I finally realised I’d become separated from G and in the process of searching for her, I happened to bump into a charming man who introduced himself before asking if I was enjoying myself.

We got to chatting and spent a wonderful half hour before he excused himself and disappeared into the crowd, shaking hands with people as he went.

The following day I Googled the names of some of the people I’d met. Finally, I searched Kevin O’Malley, the lovely gentleman I’d chatted with, just to see if he was anyone of note.

I really don’t think I’ll ever get over the feeling I experienced on discovering he’s the American Ambassador to Ireland!

And me, having spent the evening in his beautiful Phoenix Park residence and enjoying his hospitality without so much as a go raibh maith agat! #Cringe #Gobdaw

Thanks, Suzanne! We had great fun, (or “craic” as you Irish would say), didn’t we?!  Let’s do it again next year!

Gina

I’m so grateful you are reading my essays. I train, consult and speak about leadership, better communications, business and life empowerment. Please click ‘Follow’ (at the top of the page) and reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and at GinaLondon.com