By Bob Harwood

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The Power Of Words


As Comforter in Chief, he honored the fallen, saluted selfless heroes and held up a slain nine-year-old as a model for the future. His speech, applauded across the political spectrum, recalled other such moments. President Kennedy’s inaugural address urged listeners to “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address spoke to a nation divided by the Civil War. January 17 honors Martin Luther King Jr.’s stirring “I have a dream” speech seeking an end to segregation. Gandhi’s eloquence and march to protest Britain’s monopoly of the salt trade at the expense of India’s poor has become an enduring symbol of peaceful protest. Tragically, each of these great orators was assassinated. Notable orations capsulize moments in history. FDR’s We have nothing to fear but fear itself rallied a nation reeling from the Depression. Churchill spoke to a people fearing invasion was imminent. After a 27-year imprisonment, Mandela’s eloquence ended apartheid through ‘peace and reconciliation’ in South Africa.   And this power of words is found in other forms. Dickens stirs our social conscience as he recaptures the privations of London’s poorest. Other times and themes are dramatically captured in literature, on stage and screen. But as I pondered this column I appreciated anew the unique nature of our own Lakeside community where friends and neighbors so generously share their talent with the power of words in print, on stage, in choral ensembles, LCS discussions and more. Over two decades I received enormous help in developing my own writing skills from the Writers Group where dozens of published authors share their work and constructively critique the work of others. Out of this process I became a columnist for El Ojo del Lago and received indispensable help writing two books, My Journey and Seeking COMMON GROUND in a troubled world.

But my appreciation for the power of words has much deeper roots. In my childhood home, books of great thinkers adorned the bookshelves and poetic quotations adorned the walls while discussion of social and world issues was a dinner table norm. We are each shaped by the route we came. In university, my academic focus was on the English language, economics and social sciences. My extra-curricular pursuits focused on the Parliamentary Forum and student government. This extended in due course to national and international student forums where Issues such as the emerging United Nations and looming Cold War were ardently debated. In the immediate aftermath of World War II student populations surged to accommodate veterans whose educations had been interrupted by that war or even earlier by the Depression. Mature student bodies were idealistically committed to shaping a world in which such travesties would be no more. I became as comfortable with a podium as a pen.

 In retirement, I continue to share my hopes for a better, more peaceful, more sustainable world. While I endeavor to present balanced perspectives I know full well that he who is persuaded against his will is of the same opinion still! My thanks to my readers for their endurance.

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