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The most powerful word to use in a speech

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I was at a fundraiser luncheon for the New Brunswick Association for Community Living today. There was some powerful and moving video and various speakers re-enforcing the message that the Association does incredible good for the people it serves – the intellectually challenged and their families.


One of the speakers was Krista Carr, the Association's Executive Director. I had heard her speak before and she's pretty good at it - her passion for the work of the Association always comes through and anyone listens can't help but “get it”.


But her speech today especially resonated, not because the content was any different than what I had heard before, but because of her choice of words – or to be more precise, one word.


As someone who writes speeches and on occasion delivers them, I appreciate the power of the spoken word. But in all my years I have yet to find a word that packs more power than the simple word “imagine”.


Krista spoke of the importance of inclusion to children with disabilities. I don't have this exact, but to paraphrase, she said something to the effect of “Imagine you are a child and all the kids are going on the school bus for a field trip and you are left behind”.


Just a simple line, but because of the word “imagine” it hits like a body blow to the gut.  Does you heart not break for that kid?


That's the power of the word. It invites a listener to invoke his or her imagination. You immediately put yourself in that child's shoes. You feel the emotions he would feel. And you immediately understand why an Association that works to ensure this kind of thing never happens, matters.


I can't remember the last time I wrote a speech that didn't make liberal use of this word. It's just too strong.


When I wrote the speech for then Opposition leader David Alward for his PC Party biennial convention, I wanted to get the audience to compare what was to what could be. I used the word “Imagine” to trigger that; to put them in the community. Here's the passage:


“Imagine how much more we can accomplish as a province if we can engage communities in helping develop creative solutions to the challenges and opportunities that face them, rather than these communities having to expend all their energy to fight the government to overturn some stupid policy that they never would have implemented in the first place had they had the will and conviction to listen to citizens and respect their desires.”


That is so much better than if it just read – How much more can we accomplish….


Words are powerful, and I have found none more powerful than the simple word “imagine”. John Lennon I think would agree.



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