Rick Santorum wants to outlaw teleprompters for presidential candidates. Never mind that leaders from Demosthenes to George Washington have used speechwriters (once called logographers). We think the ban is a great idea!
See, I always believed that when you run for president of the United States, it should be illegal to read off a teleprompter. Because all you’re doing is reading someone else’s words to people.
Presidential candidate Rick Santorum, speaking in Gulfport, Mississippi, March 11
The great Roman orator and rhetorician Marcus Tullius Cicero also hated the teleprompter (or its equivalent, known as “paper.” ) Why? Because speaking from memory makes people think you’re speaking from the heart.
Cicero listed five techniques, or “canons,” for oratory:
- Invention was all about the construction of a speech, from research to writing.
- Arrangement had to do with organization. Start by establishing your character, then tell your story, support your argument with facts, clobber the opposing argument, then conclude with an emotional summary.
- Style is where you bring in your figures of speech and tropes—the clothing you drape onto your naked oratory.
- And then there’s memory. The ancients practiced elaborate exercises to strengthen their memory, and learned special techniques to recall the elements of a speech. Plato was skeptical of writing (even though he himself wrote), in part because he was concerned that reading would damage the all-important faculty of memory.
- Finally comes delivery, where you control your tone and gestures and wow your audience.
“It’s important for you to understand who that person is in their own words,” Mr. Santorum said. “See them, look them in the eye…hear what’s [in their] heart.” Actually, memory lets your audience think they’re hearing your heart. But they’re really just hearing what’s in your brain.
Which is fine with us. We’re more concerned about a candidate’s brain than his heart.