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Friendly Tone and Sense of Humor: Bernard Shaw Salutes Einsteins

George Bernard Shaw delivered his salutes to his friend Albert Einstein at Savoy Hotel in London on October 28, 1930. In brief words, he summarizes the how the influence of Einstein fit into the course of the mankind. His friendly tone and sense of humor embedded in the structure of the speech created a successfully and memorable toast in terms of getting the audience involved and sharing the message.

Bernard Shaw was one of the celebrated dramatists in the western hemisphere. Without mentioning anything about the greatness of himself, Shaw modestly begins with listing eight greatest people in the history of mankind. His first paragraph matches his message which is to compare Einstein not only to influential scientists but the greatest people in the mankind. “I go back twenty-five hundred years, and how many can I count in that period? I can count them on the fingers of my two hands.”, “- and I still have two fingers left vacant” These sentences seemed unimportant but it helps to build a lighthearted atmosphere and at the same time, the humor grabs the audience immediately at the beginning.

Instead of having the entire speech based on jokes, He chooses to go into a direction with more depth in terms of addressing Einstein’s contribution. He made a general argument about the history of the world: “these great men, they have been the makes of one side of humanity, which has two sides. We call the one side religion, and we call the other science.” This is a statement that is arguable and relatable in the 1930s in England. Incorporating a statement with depth which encourages the audience to think and reflect but not necessarily loses attention works particular well in a speech with this kind of tone. This opens up a fantastic opportunity for him to transit and insert the message into speech.

Shaw also includes lots of contrast between Einstein and people like Newton and other “makers of the universe”. By comparing with his friendly tone, he honors the Einstein’s contribution in details without dismissing the work of the previous scientists and religious practitioners. Having quote directly from Einstein boosts the credibility but also the humor. “he said, “Newton did not know what happened to the apple, and I can prove this when the next eclipse comes.” We said, “ the next thing you will be doing is questioning the law gravitation.” The young professor said, “no I mean no harm to the law of gravitation, but for my part, I can go without it.” ”

Bernard Shaw’s ended the speech with a personification of the field of science, “this man is not challenging the fact of science; he is challenging the action of science. Not only is he challenging the action of science, but the action of science has surrendered to his challenge.” This is a reminder for any speechwriters that even in a setting like this, an ending with an elevated and meaningful message will be a great help to the overall feeling of closing and competence.

a clip of the speech:

Published inSpeech Analysis

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