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Spotlight On: Broadcaster, Provocateur, and Bestselling Author, Ezra Levant

As Canada’s best-known Conservative pundit, Ezra Levant provokes discussion and debate wherever he appears. Whether it’s taking a hard look at human rights, political correctness, the ethics of oil, or the political events of the day, he has something insightful to say about everything, and he encourages everyone to think critically—and skeptically—about what’s going on around us. He is the host of Sun TV’s always-controversial daily news program, The Source, and the bestselling author of Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada’s Oil Sands. Ezra also speaks with former President of the federal Liberal Party and television commentator, Stephen LeDrew in a duo they dub The Final Round. Together, they dissect the headlines and defend their informed perspectives with unbridled enthusiasm. Ezra kindly took the time to appear in today’s Spotlight:

What inspired you to want to be a speaker?

There are just some subjects that I think about all the time, and research, and poke around, and the more I learn about them the more I want to tell people about them–like how the oilsands are truly the world’s Ethical Oil, or how fracking will liberate much of the world from OPEC and Russia’s Gazprom. What I love about giving a speech, especially at an industry conference, is that I have the chance to really go deep into a subjectwith a group of experts, maybe show them some facts or arguments they didn’t know about, and hear great feedback in return.

Any advice for aspiring speakers?

I think a good test for the success of a speech is to ask if the audience left with new and useful facts about the world–or a new and useful way of looking at old problems. Sometimes speakers are not the greatest experts in a field–in fact, usually their audiences have greater expertise. But if they can take a new perspective or a fresh approach, that can be really useful and memorable to an audience. And, of course, everyone likes a speech with a few good jokes in it!

What do you like to leave audiences with?

I like to have “bothered” the audience a little bit. What I mean by that, is to have put forward a thesis, or an idea, or a way of looking at things, or a fact, or even just an image in my PowerPoint slides, that is so troubling to how they’ve always looked at the world before, that it causes them to think things over and over again, and maybe even to adjust their view of the world, too. Like a grain of sand in a clam–that starts a pearl!

How do you prepare before a talk? Any special rituals? A good luck talisman?

I carry over some of my themes from talk to talk. But wherever I can, I try to learn about the particular industry, or town, or history of the group I’m speaking to. Whether it was for an oil company in Germany, or a speech in Inuvik, the more I could study the place and the people I was speaking to, the more likely I could connect with them in a useful way.

Do you have an especially memorable event you can tell us about?

One big dinner speech I was giving–I won’t say where!–I was five minutes into my speech, gearing up, really getting into the heart of the matter, when one of the organizers stood up, came to the front, asked me to stop, and announced a bathroom and/or bar break. Right in the middle of my talk! (Who was I to disagree?) So we all went to the bar (or the bathroom) and I picked things up again in ten minutes!

Any funny or embarrassing situations you found yourself in as a speaker?

Well, that bar/bathroom break one might count. Though it wasn’t me who had to go to the bathroom, I promise!

Is there a charitable cause that you feel passionate about? Why?

I love speaking at schools. (I suppose that’s a kind of charity!). I’m always grateful for the chance to talk to schools or other youth groups, to bring students a different point of view than the conventional wisdom they’re taught. I make sure I don’t “dumb down” my remarks. I know that sometimes not all students are interested in what I (or any guest lecturer) has to say, but I know there will always be a few students for whom my speech will flip a switch, and turn them on to a life of public involvement. You never know who that kid might be–they might not even know it until the moment it happens. I’m always delighted (and sometimes surprised) to encounter young people who tell me that a speech, maybe even one that I’d forgotten about, had been the turning point for them to get involved in political life.

If you had to choose a new career, what would it be?

If I could turn back the clock, I think I would have signed up for a military career. Not forever, but maybe for five or ten years–for the discipline and knowledge of the training, and for the chance to work on an important national or international project or mission. I admire my friends who served in the Canadian Forces, and they put into practice –at real danger to themselves–the spirit of patriotism and freedom that the rest of us only talk about.

Desert island album?

It’s been called the most beautiful music ever written–a song that was kept secret on orders from the Pope for centuries, until a teenaged Mozart memorized it and wrote it down. I’m talking about Miserere, by Allegri.

Best subject in school?

Math, until calculus stumped me.

Last book you read?

The Klondike Quest, by Pierre Berton. I admit I bought it for all the pictures!

Last film you saw?

Oblivion, with Tom Cruise. Skip it.

Celebrity crush?

I like Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones. Not really a crush, but an admiration.