When I heard this speech, back in September of this year, my first thoughts were to marvel at how optimistically powerful she was. You don't get that much -- powerful and optimistic. Most of the time powerful speeches are dramatic and hard hitting. Or they are on the other side, being funny and pointedly humorous. A commonality found in most powerful speeches is the direction of force -- toward you, the listener -- which doesn't hold the energy of optimism without discord and degradation.
"Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country."
...is a line from a powerful speech, which demonstrates what I'm talking about with the idea of Direction of Force. It's all on you. You can change the world. You can make this country great. You have the power. You rise up and face the challenges because you are what this country needs.
These claims might sound optimistic, but in fact they are closer to cheerleading. This is the rhetoric of building false structures. What is imbued feels powerful, but the power does not endure under stress. In our world examples of this abound. Face it, if all you need to be motivated to change our world is a "What you can do for your country" speech, then your problems are fairly shallow. Don't twist this, I'm not putting Kennedy's speech down. I like that speech. Unlike many of its kind, it has a brilliance which few have matched. But it has no optimism, only power and motivation.
So what is optimism, since I am wilfully calling out distinctions...
You may disagree, but I understand confidence to be a quality, which can not be directed at you. Confidence can not be injected. Confidence is a quality, which is derived from experience. And experience is what you acquire roughly five seconds after you needed it. In other words, experience is acquired through the survival of failure, and the tenacity to solve afterward. The attribute of experience is formidable because of this -- not because of that sentiment given by Nietzsche, "whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger," but more from the confidence of "whatever doesn't kill me, had better start running..." Confidence is a quality, therefore, of realism. When someone cheerleads you into a sense of motivation and confidence, it never feels whole. That's because it never is.
This is actually the point of brilliance with Kennedy's speech. He's not bolstering his nation up, he's making them take stock, and to alter their perspective. He's putting the power in their hands, but not offering a false sense of ability. He's asking you to ask, "what can you do for your country?" He's directing his nation to take inventory. Times were rough, the problems were dire, and some didn't make it through to the otherside. But those who did, Kennedy points out, have the chance to return to the field, wiser, more cunning, and with a clarity unearned in any other fashion.
"Now the trumpet summons us again — not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are — but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out..."
Kennedy illuminates the uniqueness of their condition, and gracefully redirects their energy "With what you know now, what can you do?" It is an enlightened and effective alteration, which makes all the difference between his speech and the bolstering shams so many others bark out at crowds to rile and incite.
Emma's speech is Powerfully Optimistic. There is no doubt in her words that this problem of inequality is real, nor any faltering regarding the existence of a solution. These two points are inalienable truths.in her speech, in spite of the fact that no nation can claim the existence of social equality -- which she flatly admits. Despite the fact that all those who have gone before have been driven back and turned from their path of unity to a path of hate -- which she flatly admits. It is this admittance which calls attention to her experience. These are the failures, these are the flames from which she has come. And she has the solution. She was born in the solution. She was raised in the solution. The steel of her energy has met those flames, lived, and stepped forward to put them out.
Her solution returns us to recognize and admit that this separation no longer works. Neither man or woman are moving forward any longer. We are stalemated and burdened so gravely, our inability to take action is becoming dire. We can not take the next step forward without the other. It is, as she says in more graceful terms, ours to do together or ours to wail at apart. This is not, and never has been a woman's problem, or a feminists problem. This is a human problem. Separation from each other is destroying the foundations of what we have always denied as being related to inequality. It is time to become human.
Her delivery is excellent as well, and the video is linked here.
TRANSCRIPT: Today we are launching a campaign called for HeForShe. I am reaching out to you because we need your help. We want to end gender inequality, and to do this, we need everyone involved.