On Tuesday night, Democrat President Joe Biden delivered his annual State of the Union (SOTU) address. Let’s charitably say it was less than compelling. A number of commentators afterwards referred to it as “speed-slurring.”
Incoming Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a former Trump press secretary, was tapped to give the GOP response – traditionally not an enviable task. But she knocked it out of the park.
“Holy schmoly,” tweeted author Mollie Hemingway, “is Sarah Huckabee Sanders a good speaker. I’ve cried twice now.”
“’A Star is Born’ could be the title of Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders absolutely remarkable speech,” tweeted former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. “It was Reaganesque.”
No argument here.
And what struck me as particularly Reaganesque was Sanders’ brilliant use of two very emotional stories to make her points. Remember: People will remember how you made them feel long after they’ve forgotten what you said.
From political speechwriter David Strom’s review…
“(Sarah Huckabee Sanders) gave the first watchable response to the State of the Union address that I have ever seen. … There’s no other way to put it: she killed it. She came out swinging…and made herself relatable through effective storytelling.”
Yep. Sanders’ storytelling definitely struck an emotional chord with her audience. Here’s how…
In the first story, Sanders told how her mom, at just 20 years of age, was diagnosed with spinal cancer…
“The doctors told her she might not live. If she did live, they said she’d never walk again, and if she did walk, she’d definitely never have children. The daughter she was told she’d never have was just sworn in as the new Governor of Arkansas and is speaking to you tonight.”
Powerful. Uplifting. If that’s not a quintessential “feel good” success story of triumph over adversity, I don’t know what is.
The second story was a behind-the-scenes look at her Christmas Day trip to Iraq with President Trump to visit with the troops…
“My husband Bryan and I had just cleaned up wrapping paper that had been shoved into every corner of our house thanks to our three kids, when I had to walk out on my own family’s Christmas, unable to tell them where I was going, because the place I’d be traveling to was so dangerous they didn’t want anybody to know that the President was going to be on the ground for even a few hours.”
What parent – especially moms – can’t relate to that?
Sanders then expertly described the extensive security precautions that were taken to keep the visit secret; a behind-the-scenes story most people would otherwise never know…
“We boarded Air Force One in total darkness – there were no lights on the plane, no lights on the runway, our phones and computers shut down and turned in. We were going completely off the grid.”
Talk about painting a picture.
Sanders continued to describe the scene when the President finally connected with the troops on the ground…
“The room erupted. Men and women from every race, religion, and region; every political party, every demographic you can imagine, started chanting in perfect unison, over and over and over again, ‘USA, USA, USA.’ It was a perfect picture of what makes our country great.”
What did Newt write? Oh, yeah…Reaganesque.
Sanders then described an encounter with a soldier who removed his Brave Rifles Patch and handed it to her as “a sign of ultimate respect.”
“Overwhelmed with emotion and speechless, I just hugged him, with tears in my eyes and a grateful heart for our heroes who keep us free. That young man and everyone who has served before him, all of those who serve alongside him, and the thousands we know who will be called upon to serve after him, deserve to know they have a country and community back home doing our part in the fight for freedom.”
It just doesn’t get much better than that.
There’s a lot you can learn from Sanders’ speech – especially the power of strong, emotional stories that you paint with words; personal stories the average person can relate to.
If you missed it, you can watch it by clicking here.
Tell stories. Tell stories. Tell stories.