This essay examines the concession speech of Stephen Harper and the victory speech of Justin Trudeau, comparing their style and effectiveness. Although Harper is, in some ways, technically a better speaker, Trudeau is a more effective orator due to his passion and energy, compensating for any limitations within his speech. Harper manages to convey grace in his loss of the election despite his reputation for abrasiveness, through his oratory skill, yet he does not inspire the audience to action. Trudeau invokes passion in the audience despite his lack of finesse. This is demonstrated in the impassioned audience response, and its spontaneity, despite the difference in length. The audience members do not flag after 24 minutes of Justin Trudeau’s speech, starting and ending at a higher level than Harper’s audience ever reaches. This testament to Trudeau’s vision and the manner in which he inspires others gives greater meaning to the content of his speech.
Keywords: Harper, Trudeau, style, persuasion
In October of 2015, Justin Trudeau won the election for Canadian Prime Minister, taking over from the conservative Stephen Harper. The new and old Prime Minister each gave a speech, but watching the two oratory efforts provides the viewer two starkly different performances, varying in their length, tone, style, content, and effectiveness. This evaluation of Harper’s concession speech and Trudeau’s acceptance speech will compare the two efforts to better understand and assess the relative persuasive abilities of each politician.
The two speakers prompted markedly different responses within this author, and in the case of Trudeau’s speech, the response to just the one speaker varied. The speech by Stephen Harper was interesting to watch, and provoked surprising feelings of sympathy. The man himself has been capable in the past of sparking intense annoyance, so to suddenly feel sadness for him in his loss of his political seat was a testament to the effectiveness of his speaking. In his farewell to Canadian politics, Harper is almost soothing, especially when compared to the performance by Trudeau.
The opening note of Trudeau’s speech was not a positive one, unless one speaks French. The decision by the new Prime Minister to deliver large swaths of his words in French, without translation, was odd to this viewer. It caused feelings of annoyance and made any future words by the man far less likely to make a positive impression. When analyzed intellectually, the decision was even more puzzling. Although both English and French are official languages in Canada, English is the dominant language. It seems an odd choice to alienate one’s voters so quickly. A quick comparison to the words of Harper make the Trudeau speech even more jarring. Harper’s choice to include a voiceover translation of his words, as well as the main content being spoken by himself again in English after finishing the French passages, lack the holes of comprehension which makes the Trudeau speech difficult to tolerate throughout.
Both men appeared to reach their audience, although through different methods. Harper, although he has been recognized in the past as an aggressive and abrasive politician, was graceful to both his supporters and opponents in his concession. In particular, Harper’s comment insisting “the people are never wrong” (2015) received marked enthusiasm and lent him the demeanor of an elder statesmen trying to guide others to do well. Trudeau, however, received enthusiasm due to his own enthusiasm, and an obvious passion for his future work.
The passion mentioned above is the underlying factor which then results in the various other divergent factors between the two speeches. For example, the length of each man’s speech is such an element. Harper’s words last barely seven minutes, not even one minute for each year he served as Canada’s Prime Minister. This exit looks inadequate next to Trudeau’s 24 minutes, but reflection makes the motives clear. Trudeau’s passion for his country is apparent in his assertion that he “will be the Prime Minister of all Canadians” (2015) is backed by his visible energy and the invisible movement behind him, The Liberal movement that rolled across Canada during the 2015 election is led by Trudeau , and in his speech, one can see that he is no figurehead.
While Harper might be sympathetic in his speech, his words lacked the substance and vision of his replacement. The sympathy one feels for him originates in the clear knowledge on his face that he is the past. Trudeau leads, and it is clear in his speech, making him convince and draw the viewer in, despite any annoyances they feel.
- Harper, S. (Performer). (2015, October 19). Concession Speech. Canada. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8z7r6m-aQQ0
- Harris, K. (2015, October 19). Justin Trudeau: ‘I will be the prime minister of all Canadians’. Retrieved from CBC Politics: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canada-election-2015-trudeau-liberal-major-1.3278681
- Milewski, T. (2015, October 20). Stephen Harper’s legacy: Good, bad and a dose of ugly. Retrieved from CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canada-election-2015-harper-political-obit-1.3273677
- Trudeau, J. (Performer). (2015, October 19). Victory Speech. Canada. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKWyk86yWsQ