The art of changing minds.

Author and columnist Susan Delacourt asked her readers last week in a Toronto Star column to help her understand how views can be shifted in politics. Having observed this phenomenon in politics for many years, I can only assume that Susan is contemplating another book.

Back when I was teaching executive classes in public speaking, I would spend at least a couple of hours of class time in discussion of a classic speech. It is the funeral oration for Julius Caesar by Marc Antony as written by William Shakespeare. What we had the class discussing was the art of changing minds. Somewhere in my files is a carefully annotated copy of Shakespeare’s speech with analysis of how every sentence contributes to the process.

It starts with getting attention and identifying with your audience. If you cannot get them to listen, you have little hope of convincing anyone.

Once the attention is gained, you have to take your audience on a journey. In this journey, you always have one foot firmly planted in the past while the other proceeds into the future. Bearing that in mind, you never step too far. Changing minds is not a short journey.

In trying to think of a recent speech that changed my mind, I would suggest that reporters such as Delacourt could take another look at Chrystia Freeland’s recent speech to the House of Commons. It was certainly different enough in intent and content that it deserved far better treatment than the scathing outrage of Sun Media.

I feel now that I might have been careless in writing off Freeland in the foreign affairs portfolio. What the Sun called a gutless attack on Trump was, in effect, necessary diplomacy. I was also struck by the fact such a major speech was made in the House. Neither the prime minister nor our national defence minister could have been as effective. And when you consider the constant embarrassment inflicted on Canadians in foreign affairs under the previous government, Freeland deserved a standing ovation.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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