During Monday night’s presidential debate, Hillary Clinton commented that “words matter when you run for president, and they really do matter when you are president.”
In an era where people tend to be skeptical of politicians more than ever, often thinking of them as public officials who speak in sound-bites that are “all talk, no-action”, Clinton’s declaration was an important one – she showed that she understands that what she or what Donald Trump says to the American people as candidates is a serious matter, and will be even more serious when one of them takes the presidency.
Clinton’s take could not be more perfectly in line with what we at Speakers’ Spotlight believe – that words always have impact.
When it came to the debate itself, Clinton seems to have taken every chance she had to use her words wisely, perhaps no more so than when, after having been criticized by Donald Trump for taking a few days off the campaign trail to prepare for the debate, she responded:
“I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate,” she said. “And yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president, and I think that’s a good thing.”
The crowd, contravening the orders of the evening to withhold from clapping, broke out to a thunderous applause, for in this moment, Clinton’s well-worded rebuttal revealed two of the starkest contrasts between her and Trump as candidates – she’s been preparing to be president for the whole of her career (whether or not she always knew it), whereas Trump is one of the least qualified – in terms of actual political experience – candidates in American history.
Clinton’s words at this juncture also have presumably resonated with something that many women perhaps know all too well – that that preparing, or even over-preparing, is something that is almost always necessary if a woman wants to be taken seriously when applying for any job — let alone the job of president.
Katty Kay, BBC journalist and bestselling author of The Confidence Code, cites a Hewlett-Packard study that discovered that female members of their staff would only apply for a promotion when they met 100 percent of the qualifications listed for a position, whereas men were happy to apply when they thought they could meet 60 percent of the job requirements. Says Kay, “underqualified and underprepared men don’t think twice about leaning in.”
Clinton’s comments may have helped to shed some light on this prevalent double-standard, as they showed that women seemingly have to work harder than men to rise to the top, while some men feel qualified for something “simply by showing up.”
Clinton’s ability to find and deploy the right words at the right time on Monday night are why we chose her for the winner of our Speak of the Week.