2018年5月23日 星期三

Barbara Bush’s Wellesley speech: an elegant masterpiece 1990

謹以此貼文紀念謝師母,半世紀的關心。




芭芭拉•布什演讲:温情与幽默的杰作 
利思:这位第一夫人用幽默诙谐、谦逊自然的风格和看似不经意的修辞技巧,征服了一群对她的演讲不抱期待的听众。



When a doctor stopped by, Bush said his mother asked, “‘Do you want to know why George W. is the way he is, doctor?’”
Before the doctor could answer, Bush said his mother quipped, “Because I drank and smoke when I was pregnant with him.”


In an interview for the PBS show In Principle, Bush told Michael Gerson,…
PBS.ORG
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布希夫人沒有退縮——她從未退縮。她出現在韋爾斯利,並在演講中探究人生選擇的複雜性。她告訴畢業生,並不是只有一條路,一個人應當遵從自己的內心,然後竭盡全力。
這是典型的芭芭拉·布希:擅長政治技巧、心平氣和。這對她丈夫也很有利,因為她表現得既通情達理,又比較保守,這正是喬治·布希本人政治形象的本質。1992年,一些選民向二戰一代提出了最後的呼籲:「請再次選擇芭芭拉的丈夫。」Jason Reed/Reuters
• Barbara Bush, the wife of America’s 41st president and the mother of the 43rd, died on Tuesday at her home in Houston at 92.
She was famously loyal to her family and became known for her straight talk and self-deprecating humor. Her legacy and approach were reflected in her signature style, our fashion critic writes. Here is her life in photographs.
Although she played down her role in her husband’s political success, she was a valuable ally and became a mainstay of American politics. Watch our video for more.
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Barbara Bush’s Wellesley speech: an elegant masterpiece

The First Lady’s 1990 advice to students still resonates today

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As a very wise woman said, “Diversity . . . like anything worth having . . . requires effort. Effort to learn about and respect difference, to be compassionate with one another, to cherish our own identity . . . and to accept unconditionally the same in others.” From whose mouth did this wishy-washy, feel-touchy liberal hogwash originate? Was it Hillary Clinton? Jeremy Corbyn? Al Franken? It was not. These words were spoken by the late Barbara Bush, in her commencement address at Wellesley College in 1990. Mrs Bush, wife of the 41st US president George HW, died last week aged 92. If nothing else, that these sentences were delivered by the wife and a mother of two former Republican presidents seems a good barometer of the distance the culture wars have covered since. Mrs Bush’s speech was not expressly political. But she was speaking a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall — and, as she acknowledged warmly both in her opening remarks and her peroration, Raisa Gorbachev was in the audience. Here was a speech to one side of politics, but not disengaged from it entirely. And her theme — as she offered advice to the graduating class of an elite women’s college — was the relationship between the private and public spheres, and the question of how you could negotiate that in your own life. A First Lady is well equipped to speak on the subject. The speech is a low-key affair, good-humoured and intimate; conversational rather than declamatory. But one can acknowledge its modesty without missing its unobtrusive artistry and good jokes. An audience, as she knew, unlikely to expect feminism from the career wife of a Republican president, needed winning. She met them halfway. Right at the outset, she used comprobatio — buttering up the audience — in announcing: “Wellesley, you see, is not just a place but an idea; an experiment in excellence in which diversity is not just tolerated but embraced.” For all it is given an engagingly folksy tilt with “you see”, here is a pretty tightly structured sentence. Two pairs of counterpointed terms — “not just a place but an idea . . . not just tolerated but embraced” — sandwich an alliterative and musical phrase “experiment in excellence” that falls on the ear as iambic dimeter. Barbara Bush with her husband, former president George HW Bush, at a baseball game in Houston, 2009 © AP The tightness of that construction is not accidental, and you can see it throughout the speech. Consider the self-deprecating wit of her ethos appeal: “I know your first choice for today was Alice Walker,” she says. (And teases: “Guess how I know!”) She jokes that Walker is known for The Colour Purple, and that “instead you got me — known for the colour of my hair!” She was renowned for embracing the white. But she does not leave that as a one-liner. She picks that idea of colour and plays with it, seguing from Walker’s novel to the purple worn for four years by Wellesley’s class of 1990, before going on to say that on the occasion of their graduation they are starting “a search for your own true colours” (which she picks up a line or two later with a “paint-by-numbers” gag). The modesty of her approach is a strategy, very well handled. Listeners tend to trust the orator who admits to uncertainty more than one who affects to know everything. The points of certainty appear more persuasive by contrast. When someone says: “This much I know”, an audience will tend to listen. “No one can say what your true colours will be. But this I do know,” she says at one point — and notice the force of those four consecutive stressed syllables in her affirmation. Later: “Maybe we should adjust faster. Maybe we should adjust slower. But whatever the era, whatever the times, one thing will never change . . .” Like Steve Jobs, Apple’s late co-founder, whose celebrated commencement address offers “just three stories”, Mrs Bush offers “three very special choices” (to believe in something larger than yourself, to live with joy, and to cherish human connections). Here is enumeratio — and, of course, the evergreen rule of three. The rule of three is present in the tricolon that remains the most quoted part of the speech: “You will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal.” (There’s a slight grammatical hiccup there; “not passing” would have worked better.) Again and again, in a speech that appears to be intimate and natural, she unobtrusively groups her epithets and phrases into euphonious pairs and triplets: “Fascinating and exhilarating . . . changes and choices . . . men and women”; “With spouses, with children, with friends”; “You must read to your children, hug your children, and you must love your children.” And again and again, she wins the audience with humour by wrongfooting them. She quotes Ferris Bueller’s Day Off — who knew Barbara Bush had seen Ferris Bueller? — and then enters into a conspiracy with her audience against her husband: “I’m not going to tell George you clapped more for Ferris than you did for George.” And she ends with a gag that acknowledges the changing times, that most of her audience will be aiming for a high-powered career than a high-powered marriage. “For over 50 years, it was said that the winner of Wellesley’s annual hoop race would be the first to get married. Now they say the winner will be the first to become a CEO.” She avoids taking sides on that, emphasising individual choice instead, and the hope that graduates will be able to realise “her own personal dream”. “And who knows? Somewhere out in this audience may even be someone who will one day follow in my footsteps, and preside over the White House as the president’s spouse.” One can imagine the ambitious, liberal young women in the audience preparing to boo . . . and being both charmed and wrongfooted by Mrs Bush’s punchline: “I wish him well!” Who is the sexist now? Here was a speech to what, we may presume, will have been a potentially tough crowd for a Republican First Lady. And it is one that elegantly makes the case in human terms for the path that its speaker chose, while acknowledging the value of the many others her audience might go on to choose themselves. Mrs Bush, on the evidence of this speech, was more of a First Lady than we thought. Sam Leith is the author of ‘Words Like Loaded Pistols: Rhetoric From Aristotle to Obama’

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