Speaking to an assortment of champion high school speech and debate students from throughout the United States and more than a dozen other countries, President Gordon B. Hinckley June 18 declared that "communication is a basic element of leadership."
The National Debate Tournament of the National Forensic League was held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, where President Hinckley received the league's Communicator of the Year Award.
"Those who have gathered here, young men and women from the high schools of this and other nations, I congratulate you most warmly," the Church president said, noting that they are developing their capacity to communicate.
Speaking of the recent death of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, President Hinckley said: "We have just laid to rest one who is known as 'the great communicator.' It was a title that came from a remarkable capacity. He knew how to talk to people, both his friends and his enemies. We can never forget the look of defiance on his face as he said, 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.' "
Though Ronald Reagan's eight years as president were marked by many serious problems, "it was his capacity to speak with radiance and hope, with assurance and confidence, that lifted the spirit of the entire land. It was his ability to communicate that made him the leader that he was," President Hinckley said.
Acknowledging that ideas are important, he added, "Ideas become realities only as they are clearly spoken and acted upon."
Noting that the 60th anniversary of D-Day has just been observed, President Hinckley spoke of Winston Churchill, whose "tremendous capacity to communicate . . . built resolve within the people of Britain and saved them from disaster."
He said, "This venue in which we meet tonight, this historic and unique tabernacle, might have remained only a largely unrecognized and curious building were it not for the weekly network broadcast of 'Music and the Spoken Word.' For 75 years now, there has gone forth from this great hall the music of a wonderful choir together with a brief but stimulating message. This longest network broadcast in history is a remarkable phenomenon. There is nothing to compare with it. It has entertained, inspired and motivated millions upon millions during these three quarters of a century. And all of this has been an expression of the human voice."
President Hinckley quoted from the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:1-10, and from Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address to illustrate that "the transfer of ideas from one man to the masses is really the magic by which people are persuaded to act."
He observed that power to communicate has also been used for evil purposes, citing the example of Adolph Hitler's oratory that led to World War II.
"Wherever we go, whatever we do, we are inclined to follow the leader," he said. "And we will discover that the leader is one who knows how to communicate to others the principles or the plan in which he or she believes."
He cited an old Arab proverb: "An army of sheep led by a lion . . . will defeat an army of lions led by a sheep." He added, "The roar of a lion is more persuasive than the bleating of a sheep."
Introducing President Hinckley was Frank Langheinrich, a debate coach at East High School in Salt Lake City and bishop of the Salt Lake Twelfth Ward. He said President Hinckley has excelled in each of the three parts of the communication process: listening, knowing one's audience and putting words into action.
E-mail: [email protected]@desnews.com