October 3, 2016
Heard any great speeches lately?
It happens every four years: the Olympics and the Presidential are quadrennial. The Games have a variety of settings and skills, but The Campaign has only one model: it’s all-about-the-mouth. The gold medal in persuasive rhetoric will go home with someone on November 8th this year. Speak on…
Battlefield speeches are far more memorable than political monologues. The judges have delivered their best-in-movie-history awards for the short talks that would mobilize the troops to fight to the death. The Silver goes to Russell Crowe – portraying Roman General Maximus in Gladiator:
“At my signal, unleash hell… Three weeks from now, I will be harvesting my crops. Imagine where you will be, and it will be so. Hold the line! Stay with me! If you find yourself alone, riding in the green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in Elysium, and you’re already dead! Brothers, what we do in life echoes in eternity…”
The Gold Medal battlefield speech – #1 of all movie history – was reserved for Mel Gibson, in his role as William Wallace in Braveheart:
“Fight and you may die. Run and you will live, at least awhile. And dying in your bed many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that, for one chance to come back here as young men, and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom!”
Stephen: “Fine speech. Now what do we do?”
Wallace: “Just be yourselves.”
Hamish: “Where are you going?”
Wallace: “I’m going to pick a fight.”
Hamish: “Well, we didn’t get dressed up for nothing.”
It accompanied a political turning-point, but it was given as a battlefield speech. You may not remember it; listen to David’s remarks to Goliath, just before they went toe-to-toe:
“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”
David was a teenager; Goliath was the Philistine Champion. The armies of Israel and Philistia had been on the field for 40 days – with Goliath blasting his challenge-to-fight every day – but they had no takers until David showed up with supplies from home for his older brothers who were soldiers. The armies would be reduced to cheerleaders; one-on-one combat was the engagement… but none of Israel’s men were man enough for Goliath.
Saul – King of Israel – had won the throne with his dominant stature – he was “a head taller than anyone else” (1Samuel 9:2). Israel’s big guy – King Saul – wasn’t big enough to stand-up to Goliath.
David volunteered to fight. Saul offered him the King’s custom armor. Maybe he wanted people to think it was him, doing what he should have done, as Israel’s leader. David turned that down: he went up against the giant on his terms – using the weapons he had confidence in – rather than playing someone else’s strategy, ensuring defeat.
David’s speech wasn’t his victory… but it foretold what God was about to do through a man who understood his part in the larger Story.
Speeches don’t win battles… but history records great victories for underdogs who honor the Lord.