Powerful Voices February 15, 2011Posted by jayocallahan in Uncategorized.
Elizabeth Bradford, one of the great figures in Marshfield, Massachusetts lived to be over a hundred. She had a deep powerful voice and I imagine it had the resource of Samuel Johnson’s.
I like to think of the unusual voices I’ve heard through my life. My mother had a ringing voice. She used the rhythms of language in an extraordinary way. She would lift up her hand and a single word would be like the beginning of an opera. My father’s voice was a charcoal voice. My dad’s handwriting was precise and elegant and he used words in the same way, but his voice was more dramatic than his writing. He was a natural actor.
I’ll never forget President Kennedy’s inaugural address. It was on a cold winter day. Kennedy looked so young and vigorous and his cut into that cold air in a thrilling way. Kennedy, like my parents, had the sense of the drama of language. As Kennedy gave the speech there was a sense that he loved doing it, he loved the drama of being President, of being in front of a great crowd. Beginning. In a sense this was his music.
I remember reading that before Kennedy’s great Berlin speech, he was saying to the general that the speech he was giving was dull. In the short time before arriving Kennedy had changed the speech. After he gave the Berlin speech he said to Kenny O’Donnell, “We’ll never have another day like this.”
Martin Luther King’s words ring out through our lives. He of course came from a tradition of black preachers. He reminded us that words can lift us up. In the case of both Kennedy and King they were in a sense political opera at its best. Both of those speeches were given out in the open. There was no opera house to contain them. Instead the ceiling was the sky, which seemed so right. Both of them calling us to go beyond the ordinary, to be daring, to laugh, to be open, to be alive.
Ah the voices that ring out through our lives.