In this paper I review the speech that Barbara Jordan made at the Madison Square Garden in July 12, 1976, as a keynote speaker for the Democratic National Convention. Her presence on this stage is obviously a calculated move by the Democratic Party to rally a majority of the electorate to favor the party come the Election Day.
Non-Verbal and Verbal Language
Barbara uses both verbal and non-verbal language. Her verbal language is formal given the occasion that her speech is presented. Her non-verbal language includes her body language that exudes confidence, courage and charisma.
Barbara begin her speech by laying out the history of Democratic Conventions in the party and announces her unique appearance in this edition as an evidence of the strides that the American society has made given its murky racial past. She refuses to take this change to lambast the Republican party but rather extols the values of the Democratic party and outline the role that elected leaders and the citizens must play to make good of these values.
Her speech is written but even as she delivers it she gives the impression that she has gone through it severally before she appeared on this stage. This gives her the liberty from her script and this way connect with her audience through eye contact. In this way she does connect with the audience and helps in ascertaining that she means what she says.
Her sentences are short, most of them end in a serious emphatic tone; but there are also long sentences, most of which she delivers off the script and she does it with the conviction that she actually believes what she says and that she is passionate about the solutions that she is proposing.
Barbara is dressed to the occasion, in a green skirt-suit; apparently in acknowledgement of the privilege bestowed her as a key note speaker and also the seriousness of the occasion.
The tone that Barbara employs throughout the speech is one that portrays seriousness of the issues at hand, which she addresses the audience exhorting them to uphold the values of the party.
This speech is coming in an electioneering year and the fact that it is delivered at the Democratic National Convention underlines the fact that the audience is made up of like-minded people. Therefore, Barbara’s choice to outline the history of the party, extol its values and explain its role in the American political-social system and also through rallying the audience to uphold these values is a mark of her precise audience analysis.
Barbara Johnson was a black Congress woman from Texas. Her presence on this stage comes at the backdrop of the civil right movements in the previous decade that had relegated the people of colour at the periphery of the American society. Her past election to Congress and her presence on this stage is actually a statement of progress of the American society and more particularly so the Democratic Party. Even though she doesn’t openly solicit for votes for her party come the election day, her presence symbolizes that the Democratic Party identifies with the minorities in the American society and has accorded them their place of pride.
Before the speech, Barbara uses her hands to waves at the audience acknowledging the cheerful reception of the audience and also waves them to subside the wild cheers so that she can begin her speech. During the speech she makes brief wave strokes of her hand, pinching the air to reiterate a point that she wants to drive home to the audience.