Evaluation of U.S. President George Bush’s speech by a Toastmaster

The following evaluation is taken from : Toastmasters International’s website

Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. January 29, 2003 – Toastmasters International’s former President, Alfred Herzing, of Yorba Linda, California, says President Bush’s State of the Union Speech was more effective in the second half, where he spoke about Saddam Hussein’s threat to the world, than in the first part, where he outlined his domestic policies.

“He kept a good, measured pace throughout the speech,” Herzing said, “but he became more animated in the second half. From a Toastmaster’s standpoint, I’d liked to see more gestures and vocal variety reinforce his message, and a stronger conclusion to summarize his key points.”

The key to the public speaking training offered by Toastmasters International is the evaluation segment, whereby all speakers are critiqued by a fellow member according to the “sandwich approach:” a few suggestions for improvement wrapped in twice as much positive feedback. The nonprofit organization aims to teach the mechanics of effective speech delivery; it does not advocate a particular political or religious point of view.

On a positive note, Herzing gave Bush credit for an overall powerful presentation, credibly and confidently delivered without resorting to “John Wayne mannerisms.” Herzing said Bush used “the power of repetition” to emphasize key points — especially toward the end when listing Iraq’s alleged defiance of weapons treaties. “He repeated the lines, ‘He has not accounted for that material. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed it’ at the end of five paragraphs,” Herzing noted. “He also used short, crisp sentences and specific information to elaborate on numbers: ‘I will send you a budget that increases discretionary spending by 4 percent next year, about as much as the average family’s income in expected to grow.'”

Herzing comments on the effectiveness of phrases such as “Nobody was ever cured by a frivolous lawsuit;” “The course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others;” or “One mentor, one person, can change a life forever, and I urge you to be that one person.”

He also thought it was effective for Bush to reach out to the Iraqi people by saying, “Your enemy is not surrounding your country; your enemy is ruling your country.”

Of course, if President Bush were to join a Toastmasters club, he’d be encouraged to stop flipping through his notes, and instead slide them more subtly from left to right, While members of Toastmasters clubs are taught not to read their speeches, Herzing concedes that President Bush’s hour-long, widely televised speech calls for the use of notes, “in case the TelePrompTer fails.”

You can read President Bush’s script from this website.

List of Speaking Topics

Looking for speech ideas?  The following list may give you some inspirations:

I    Business

1.     The biggest sale I ever made – and the thrill I got from it.
2.     How and why I failed in business.
3.     I like my present job because…

4.     The best (or worst) investment I ever made in my life.

5.     My boss was good to me.

6.     How I improved my performance at work.
7.     My suggestion for helping my organization become
more teamwork oriented. 


II   Childhood

8.     The excitement of recieving my high school (or other  diploma).
9.     The thrill of getting my first bicycle.

III  Family

10.     How I felt when my home burned down.
11.     The thrill I got in watching my son (daughter) being graduated from high school or college.
12.     A lesson my children have taught me.
13.     I was homesick.
14.     My wedding.
15.     The most humorous thing my child ever said or did.
16.     I was proud of my father (or mother) because . . .

IV   People

17.     My hero — and why I worship him (her).
18.     The happiest couple I know — and why they are happy.
19.     The pleasure I got from praising a friend, relative,
or employee.
20.     I made an enemy.
21.     The most courageous act I ever witnessed.
22.     My favourite speaker — and why I like him (her).
23.     What I learned by becoming interested in a stranger.

V    Personal

24.     The most exciting thing I ever did.
25.     The best friend I ever had.
26.     The meanest prank I ever played.
27.     The greatest help I ever recieved.
28.     An unforgettable experience with ‘puppy love’.
29.     I was patient and it paid off.
30.     The strangest coincidence I ever heard (or witnessed).
31.     My big moment.
32.     How one idea increased my happiness.
33.     I made a friend.
34.     My favourite opera — and why I like it.
35.     My favourite motto — and what it has meant to me.
36.     The most stupid thing I ever did.
37.     I was jilted.
38.     My greatest handicap.
39.     The biggest surprise of my life.
40.     My most unforgetable experience in the armed forces.
41.     Why I quit drinking.
42.     I was cheated.
43.     I learned my lesson the hard way.
44.     I had forgotten (or lost) my wallet.
45.     My favourite toy — and why I like it.
46.     I never felt more lonely in my life.
47.     When I prayed the hardest — and why.
48.     I was furious.
49.     I was seasick (or airsick).
50.     I was drafted.
51.     I visited a friend on the farm.
52.     I won a medal because . . . and the thrill it gave me.
53.     My greatest disappointment.
54.     I turned to prayer as a last resort.
55.     The happiest recollection of my childhood.

VI   Recreation

56.     The most exciting sports event I ever watched.
57.     The best book I ever read — the best play or the best film.
58.     My most successful fishing trip.
59.     The thrill of owning my first automobile.

VII  Social

60.     My first date.
61.     A dinner I will always remember.
62.     I was embarrassed because I could not remember a name.

VIII Miscellaneous

63.     I got a ticket for speeding.
64.     The best sermon I ever heard — and how it 
affected me.
65.     The mental and emotional impact that a course has had on me.
66.     Why I never went to college (or university).
67.     The last time I had a flat tire.
68.     The smartest *mistake* I ever made.
69.     An incident that convinced me that honesty is the 
best policy.

— Excerpted from the manual in the Dale Carnegie Course.