IX. Artful Communication
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Starting Point / Judge Sweat's Whiskey Speech
Starting Point / Judge Sweat’s Whiskey Speech
In the annals of great talks, we tend to think of Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech of 1775, Winston Churchill’s “Never Give In” radio dispatch, and Martin Luther King’s passionate exhortation “I Have a Dream” given outdoors at the Lincoln memorial in 1963. Judge Noah Sweat, a young but well-known raconteur and political figure in Mississippi, should also be remembered for a brilliant and clever talk to the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1952 when he was summoned to give his opinion on the legalization of liquor sales. Here is what he said.
“My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey.
But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman's step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life's great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.
This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.”[i]
Prohibition was a heated issue in Mississippi for thirty years and debated annually when the state legislature convened. As it turned out, Mississippi was the last state in the union to repeal prohibition. The repeal took place in 1966.
“If you can’t beat them, arrange to have them beaten.” L. Grizzard
“Drawing on my fine command of the English language, I said nothing.” Robert Benchley
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