President Obama’s recent “speech to the Israeli people” in Jerusalem has rightly been lauded as a masterful blend of rhetoric and policy. Every executive who gives speeches can learn a lot from it. One important lesson is how to creatively establish a personal connection with your audience.
Before I read it, I wondered how the President, an African American, a non-Jew who grew up in Hawaii, would establish a personal bond with Israelis, especially during the Passover season. In particular, I wondered if he and his speechwriters could pull it off without sounding phony or patronizing.
Did they ever!
First, he connected his family to the traditional Passover meal: After enjoying Seders with family and friends in Chicago and on the campaign trail, I’m proud that I’ve now brought this tradition into the White House. I did so because I wanted my daughters to experience the Haggadah, and the story at the center of Passover that makes this time of year so powerful.
Then he established a strong link between his childhood and the Passover story: To African Americans, the story of the Exodus was perhaps the central story, the most powerful image about emerging from the grip of bondage to reach for liberty and human dignity — a tale that was carried from slavery through the Civil Rights Movement into today….For me, personally, growing up in far-flung parts of the world and without firm roots, the story spoke to a yearning within every human being for a home.