But what has all this to do with the truth? And why are you speaking at all, unless it is that you, knowing the truth, are trying to show the truth to others? So do not seek to arouse applause for its own sake. If it comes naturally, spontaneously, it is a pleasant tribute to your cause. But if you win it by your art, it is merely a tribute to your powers. And you are not speaking for yourself—you are speaking for your cause.
The wife of one of the most effective of American speakers is reported to have said to him: “I wish you would deliver a speech which no one can possibly applaud.” Of course what she meant was that she would like to see him devote himself to getting the truth before the people without resorting to any of the tricks of oratory.
No matter how much a wizard of words Nature may have made him; no matter that he has the dark art of making the worse appear the better reason; no matter that his golden voice is like music, and his very appearance pleasantly thrills you with the strange and subtle magnetism of the man: if he have not sincerity, all these are nothing.
And he cannot affect sincerity and fool the people very long. He may fool them in one speech or in one campaign if he be a political speaker, but ultimately the people will sense his moral quality and he will be discredited.
This very thing happened to a celebrated American speaker who may be said to have been endowed with genius. There was no resisting the man while he was speaking. But he never was honestly in earnest. He never really cared for his cause. There was never a moment when he could not have spoken as effectively for the other side.
Finally this got through the consciousness of the people, and his power over their convictions speedily dissolved.
Many years ago a business friend of mine heard this man speak on a notable occasion. His address was on a subject in which the people were deeply interested, and was a masterpiece of mingled argument and pathos; and his audience belonged to him. It had no mind but his, no will but his.
Afterward my friend said to me: “That man will not last; he is not honest. At one climax so pure, so exalted, so tender, that I found tears in my own eyes, I saw him wink at some intimate friends who were sitting in a stage-box at his right. I was between them. They were watching him as they would have watched a friend who was an actor. He, on his part, was showing them what he could do. That wink said: ’See how I did that. Now observe me closely! I will throw still another ball of emotion into the air and juggle with it, too.’”
And sure enough, he did not last. His tropical mind lasted, his chameleon imagination lasted, his compelling personality, his grace, charm, witchery of words—all these lasted; but all these were nothing without that honesty which would make him die rather than speak for a cause in which he did not believe, or be silent when a cause in which he believed was at issue and in peril.