The Power of Words

By Terry Weber

If you’re like me, you are breathing a sigh of relief that the recent political season is finally over, at least for a few days. We get a brief respite from the avalanche of words and images that comprise the various versions of American propaganda.

However, truth be told, politicians, activists, poets, and religious leaders have been known to be transcendent on occasion in their use of words, providing true inspiration for those with ears to hear. Perhaps transcendence can only be proven over time, but even Election Night 2012 gave us some poignant words.

From President Obama’s acceptance speech: “… we are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.”

From Governor Romney’s concession speech: “… I join with you to earnestly pray for him [President Obama] and for this great nation.”

As an actor, I am, of course, extremely interested in the way writers of words and the speakers of those words can bring about a desired effect on an audience. Certain powerful phrases by leaders of various kinds have continued to inspire through the years, resonating with generation after generation.

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” (Ronald Reagan)

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” (Franklin Roosevelt)

“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” (Mother Teresa)

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” (Nelson Mandela)

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Abraham Lincoln)

“If it be now, ‘tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all.” (William Shakespeare: Hamlet)

Most resonant of all, though, when spoken on the voice and written on the heart, are the words of Scripture. Taste the words of Joshua, the great military and political leader of the people of Israel: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)