All the worlds a stage, and all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts
From William Shakespeares As You Like it Act II: Scene VII. As spoken by the character Jaques.*
Famous words. The character Jaques goes on to identify the seven stages of a mans life in this oft-quoted Shakespeare passage.
But did you see what I did?
I gave credit to the source of those words. I did that because theyre not really mine.
Even though I could have just used themthe copyright limitations expired long agothere is probably a lot of people who would read them and get the impression that Im quite the bard. But if I resorted to such deceitful tactics, eventually someone, such as yourself, would read the words only to get the impression that Im a liar, a cheat, and a thief. But I didnt do it, so stay with me and Ill explain where Im going with this.
When I was merely a teen, I saw the movie Patton starring George C. Scott in the post theater at Fort Lee Virginia. The famous speech to his troops is legendary. Its been copied and mocked ever since.
America was struggling for good leadership in those days. I remember believing, in my still-growing mind, that George C. Scott was the man we needed to lead our Army. Yes, that sounds silly now. Being young, dumb and whatever elseI was fooled.
Thats not a bad thing for an actor to do to the audience.
The best actors are the ones who are gifted enough to make you actually believe they are the character they are playing. George C. Scott was a brilliant and gifted actor. But he was not like the real George S. Patton. I didnt learn that until I watched another movie that starred Scott, which was made three-years earlier. It was called the Flim-Flam Man.
Scott played the character Mordecia Jones, who was a con-artist whose motto was you cant cheat an honest man. He was a master of lying, cheating, and stealingeverything that Patton was not. Mordeica Jones was a parasite. I was nearly mortified until I felt my brain grow.
Once again Scott had proved himself to be such a great actor that he touched my soul. Scotts performance helped me to understand the difference between a man who reads scripts well and looks good on camera from great Americans who have led our nation in times of crisis.
Like everyone, I remember 9-11 well. I was working with in an Air Force command center as the attack on our homeland began. As the event progressed, I was concerned not only about the attack but also because my generals lacked answers. They stopped being generals. They had never been trained for this. Nothing was scripted. In military contingencies they practice checklist procedures over and over–with tutoring as required–until they appear to be as smart and in-control as wed expect them to be.
But 9-11 was different. Nothing was scripted.
Seeing my senior leaders appear as confused as everyone else was initially disheartening. But it helped me to understand that there is a difference between leaders and great leaders.
Later on that infamous day, Air Force One came to our base. President Bush made an impromptu speech to the nation via our facilities.
Before he left to lead our nations reaction to the unprovoked attack, he talked with my generals. I wasnt in the room, but they came out quickened. Confusion was lifted. They were not afraid. They held their heads high. They looked like generals again. They were generals again.
We are bombarded with propaganda almost daily suggesting our President is a fake, but I know better. My generals know better. George Bush is a great leader.
Now, I told you those stories so I could tell you this.
We have a presidential candidate who often uses other peoples words as his own. Heres one example. Heres another. In each of these Obama uses the exact words Deval Patrick used years earlier. Seeing and listening to the recordings next to each other clearly suggest something is wrong. But not everyone agrees it is wrong.
In Obamas defense, he has said he didnt steal these words because he was given them by Deval Patrick. They are friends and often swap words, or something like that.
But do you see anything wrong with it?
Maybe. Because it gives the impression when he is speaking that they are his words. He didn’t just put the concept in his own words, he recited the words exactly. If theres nothing wrong with it, then its more like acting. No, it is acting. Merely reciting a script. Just words. Written by someone else. Practiced. Polished. Until they can fool most of the audience.
When Joe Biden said that Obama was articulate it created quite a stir in some circles. The complaint went something like since Obama was a senatorof course he was articulate. In addition, some people considered the comment to be racist. They said that Biden was suggesting Obama was somehow not expected to be able to speak well because he was black. Most Americans know by now that Obamas father is African and his mother is not. Nevertheless, that word articulate is often used to describe Obamas speech presentations both by conservatives and those who are not.
But how is he under pressure? What happens if his tele-prompter or the mic in is ear malfunctions? Heres an example. Obama gets lost, unable to complete his presentation when his audio feed is disrupted.
The Bristol Virginia gaffe is not an isolated event. It seems there are more and more of them, but you just dont see them on the news very often. You dont hear much about them unless you scan YouTube or listen to talk radio. And if you do, youd know there has been some discussion that Obamas speech writers may have borrowed heavily from popular music lyrics for his Berlin performance. Just words.
I think actors are important. What would we do in our spare time without them?
Some folks have argued that Ronald Reagan was an actor, somehow believing the fact meant he should not have been President. They leave out the fact that he did other things also. Things like being Governor of California for twelve years. That trumps the actor experience. No one in their right mind could believe actors, even ones who pretended to be Presidents on TV or movies, are qualified to be a real president. It would be like believing Tom Cruise is qualified to be a fighter pilot because he played Maverick in “Top Gun.” As a more personal example, would you want Alan Alda (a.k.a. Hawkeye Pierce from M.A.S.H) performing emergency surgery on you?
Dont be misled by practiced words that flow sweetly from the lips of pretenders. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between a flim-flam man and a great leader. But much depends on your ability to do so.
If you fail in that task, the last part any of us play may be that of the disenfranchised citizen; sans money, sans property, sans freedom.
It just makes sense.
*The entire passage is:
All the worlds a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurses arms;
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannons mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lind,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipperd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well savd, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
(Act II, Scene VII, lines 139-166)