A Democracy of Five

I remember a few summers ago preparing my last speech for class. I was in class writing on our white board. I had trashed outline after outline; wrote and rewrote Venn Diagrams which, by this time, looked more like a kaleidoscope than an idea overlay; and lists of many point by point flow charts, hypothetical responses, and possible answers, all adjusted for time. I couldn’t find a topic worth speaking on, and every topic I could contrive appeared blurry as a tree in a dense fog. A few of my other classmates were worfivebarsking on the other side of the room, when one of them yelled my name and said, “Just make something up. You’re grades are high enough that you could walk out and still pass.” I remember quite distinctly what I said because it was perhaps the most natural thing I have ever said. I told him, “I don’t want to pass this class, I want to be the best in this class.” He looked at me, then the white board, back at me, laughed antagonistically, and said, “Good luck!” When I was finished, I had a speech aimed at addressing Gay Marriage, ObamaCare, and Christian Morality. My job was to present to one of the most liberal audiences I’ve had the opportunity to be around. Two of the most vivid and most repeated principles I remember from that class was “Know your audience” and “Know how they will respond.” Upon these principles hang the well-being of any speaker. But I could not have been more mistaken by how my audience would react. I was left puzzled with the silence, and then the abrupt applause left me speechless. But before I could ask the audience the question that was spinning in my mind, my professor interrupted. I can still hear her voice, and remember the confirmation in my dumb-founded expression, when she said, “Wait, wait! Is everyone in this room telling me that he can speak on Gay Marriage, ObamaCare, and Christian Morality and no one is offended?” In response, a student said it was one of the most interesting speeches he’s ever heard and even more so given how short it was. Looking back down at her clipboard, my professor confirmed my suspicions – I had gone way over time and was by far the longest speech. It wouldn’t be until several years later that I would be able to look back and realized the real principle I learned in that class. It doesn’t matter who your classmates may be, or who your neighbors may be. It doesn’t matter if one of them is a PETA supporter, a student of strict Jewish heritage, Gay Rights Activists, or Abortionist. It doesn’t even matter if, like me, you’re a “Conservative among Conservatives”. What I learned is that when everyone knows they’re in the same sinking ship, they will help each other survive. And that is the principle I learned: show the audience that we are in this together, and that our ship is sinking. If I could revisit that day and rewrite my outline to incorporate something of today, it would be this. I would take out my segment upon Gay Marriage and my argument about how California’s democratic process was destroyed by unelected officials, almost three thousand miles away. Instead, I would say, “The American people were told by five unelected officials how our culture is defined.” I would emphasize that while it was horrific that 35 million people could be swept under the carpet by five judges, it would be beyond comprehension that almost 300 million people could be silenced by the same unelected few. Whether you believe in the Right to Gay Marriage, the Right to Abortion, or the Right to Free Healthcare, the cost has been steep. As a wish from Rumpelstiltskin cost the dear maiden her child, so it has been for America – It has reduced our democracy to a democracy of five.