As a rule, I’m not much of a re-reader. My “to-read” list is so long that I’ll never finish it, so it’s hard for me to backtrack and give even the best books a second glance. But, there are exceptions….
When I was joined the faculty here in Mobile, I was looking for ways to improve my teaching. For all of the jokes up head-in-the-clouds professors who drone on and on, it’s hard to have a class of disengaged students. So, I cast about for some books on public speaking and came across James C. Humes’ Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln.
The book was good and it helped make my classes better. Eventually, I let the book go to the thrift stores. But I never forgot it. So, in December, I bought a used copy online. Over the last week or so, I reread it. And I’m glad that I did.
After serving in the Pennsylvania legislature, Humes was a speechwriter for Presidents Nixon and Ford. Since then, he’s been a speaker and a communications professor, and often comments on the elements of effective communication. He’s written several books. (I also enjoyed Humes’ The Sir Winston Method, on what made Winston Churchill an effective communicator).
Speak Like Churchill is a good, quick read. Humes distills his advice into 21 quick lessons on speaking. Though his advice is versatile, it applies most to situations in which one makes a formal speech, as opposed to an informal talk.
In my opinion, Humes’ advice is on target. His 21 tips can improve anyone’s speaking. Also, his many examples quoting famous speakers (mostly politicians) help bring the material alive for the reader. If I had to be critical, I’d say that it’s nearly impossible to keep 21 principles in your mind at the same time. Readers will have to choose 2-3 elements and focus on those.
Humes made his living in politics and he’s definitely a conservative. Reader who are especially liberal might not like all of the examples of effective, conservative speakers. At the same time, Humes admires the communication skills of FDR and JFK and often cites both as good examples to follow.
Now that I’ve read Speak Like Churchill twice, I can’t give it a poor review. I’d rate it 8 out of 10, with the caveat that you have to practice Humes’ tips to improve your speaking. I genuinely believe that this short, lively book can make anyone a better speaker.