Teacher President Loses Merit Points with Poor Speech

By Andrew Ivey | Public Speaking

Nov 21

Karen Lewis, the President of the Chicago Teachers Union, has managed to upset nearly everyone with a recent speech in Seattle. The speech in question was to a Northwest Teaching for Social Justice audience.

The cause of the upset? Well, first of all she chose to mock the speech impediment of the Federal Government’s Education Secretary, Arne Duncan. That’s not a great idea at the best of times. And from a teacher, speaking at a public conference it’s a bad move.

But she also managed to alienate her audience with some ripe language. Language that suggested her speech wasn’t that well planned. For example, we heard:

I am the only black woman in the class of 1974 from Dartmouth College. Whoo. People are impressed – let me tell you, I spent those years smoking lots of weed – self-medicating. Self-medicating – thank you! [cheers] Sounds like you all did, too. [laughs and cheers] Oh, I’m sorry – there’s kids here. I wasn’t supposed to say that, right? [laughs] Too late!

Not the best form of words for anyone in a public position. But there was more. Pacing the stage she rambled on and on. Which is where she lost us…and her audience. No merit points for this speech.

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About the Author

The Principal Trainer at training business Time to Market. Based in Oxford, I run presentation and public speaking training courses, coaching sessions and seminars throughout the UK.
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