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The key to good politics? Good communication


Thu, Dec 31st, 2009
Posted in Commentary

Not long ago, I was speaking to a group of high school students when one raised his hand, declared that he wanted to run for Congress, and asked what he should study in order to prepare. I suspect my answer surprised him. I told him to study English.

What I had in mind were writing, reading, and public speaking. Members of Congress need to be good at a lot of things if they want to be effective, but chief among them is the ability to communicate. Politics - both getting elected and making a meaningful contribution to public life - is largely about interaction with other people. You won't succeed if you can't make yourself understood, don't know how to pay attention to what others think, and don't care about the dialogue that underlies our democracy.

When I say "communication" I mean it in the broadest sense: formal and informal; one-on-one and before a mass audience; in writing, in speeches and in discussion; with small, friendly groups of admirers and in front of larger, not-always-friendly crowds; on television, on the radio, on the Web, and in print; in the formal setting of the House or Senate floor and sitting at a formica-topped luncheonette table over coffee and doughnuts.

Sometimes politicians have a chance to spend time choosing their words, but more often they have to speak off the cuff, weighing the import of their words even as they say them. Some people are born with this ability, but for lots of us it's a skill we learn with practice, and it's invaluable to a politician.

When you accept an invitation to speak, you never know what the environment is going to be - not just in terms of the venue, which could be anything from an old VFW hall to someone's living room, but in terms of the political moment. More than a few times I've prepared for a public appearance only to have my speech become irrelevant when some national issue became the only topic people were interested in discussing.

And the truth is, most audiences are less interested in hearing a speech read than in having it delivered in a way that seems fresh and spur-of-the-moment. They prefer dialogue with their elected representative rather than a set speech.

It also helps to remember that in public life, presentation matters. You have to be able to write clearly and, even more important, speak clearly: don't slur your words, don't let your voice fade - you'd be amazed how many people have difficulty hearing.

Be enthusiastic and e .....
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One Moment Please - Leadership Training

Thu, Dec 31st, 2009
Posted in Commentary

Publisher of the Fillmore County Journal, cell phone number 507-251-5297

"We got no food. We got no jobs. Our pets' HEADS ARE FALLING OFF!!!" This is a quote from the character Lloyd Christmas from the movie "Dumb and Dumber." In contrast, th ..... 
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An appreciation

Thu, Dec 24th, 2009
Posted in Commentary

I have always considered it a privilege to write a commentary piece for the Journal. I am allowed to write about anything I choose and never have the editors changed the content of what I wrote. I have received unsolicited positive comments, and hav ..... 
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One moment, please...

Thu, Dec 24th, 2009
Posted in Commentary

Over the years, throughout my life in the newspaper business, I have received many anonymous correspondence via letters, telephone voice mails, and even e-mails from individuals who have strong opinions one way or another.

While some of the me ..... 
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My typical Christmas

Fri, Dec 18th, 2009
Posted in Commentary

I don't know exactly when it started, but the holiday season is here in full force. Decorations are everywhere, people are frantically shopping for gifts, and holiday music seems to have taken over. I recognize the true and wonderful meaning of Chri ..... 
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One Moment Please - Lutefisk, it's what's for dinner!

Fri, Dec 18th, 2009
Posted in Commentary

By Jason Sethre

Publisher of the Fillmore County Journal, cell phone number 507-251-5297

On Sunday, December 6, Christ Lutheran Church, located in Preston, hosted their 20th annual lutefisk dinner, which boasts an average of 900 to 1,1 ..... 
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You've got mail

Fri, Dec 11th, 2009
Posted in Commentary

Computers and internet communication are still a marvel to those of us who remember when a long distance phone call was a huge deal and reserved for announcing a death in the family. Long distance rates were lowest in the evenings and on Sundays, an ..... 
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One moment, please... Yeah, that'll happen when pumpkins fly!

Fri, Dec 11th, 2009
Posted in Commentary

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Another one from Flaherty - The Dance

Tue, Dec 8th, 2009
Posted in Commentary

When I walked into the Owls, Archie called me over to the table and informed me that the Owls were going to have a dance - whether they wanted to or not.

"Well, if you don't want a dance, why are you having one?"

"We don't have anyth ..... 
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