LACONISM REQUIRES TIME
ARMAN NAVASARDYAN
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary




 

A diplomat’s work is closely linked to the art of writing. It has been calculated that nearly ninety percent of his work consists of writing and sending documents. It is not in vain that the great diplomat, writer, and reformer Harold Nicolson said: "The art of diplomacy is the art of writing.”

The main admission requirements of Georgetown University in Washington DC are analytical thinking and writing. It was Allen Dulles, the former CIA director who said that "a good investigator or diplomat must have the ability to compose his thoughts in a clear, concise, and interesting way.” Indeed, it is important to write in a laconic, contained, logical, and unbiased manner.

"I am sorry for writing long, I didn’t have the time to write short,” said a wise man.

It is really difficult to speak or write laconically, especially when the topic is familiar. The more you know about something, the more you are tempted to speak or write longer on the subject. Those who are able to resist this temptation are either experienced, well-trained, or simply talented.

The new diplomatic history recognizes three unsurpassable politicians who communicated with remarkable brevity and clarity—Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and John F. Kennedy. The famous Gettysburg Address by US President Abraham Lincoln was no longer than five minutes. Another US president, William Henry Harrison, delivered the longest inaugural address in American history and he was punished for that. He spoke for more than an hour in open air, in the cold weather, and became ill with a cold that turned to pneumonia and he died nine days after becoming ill. The most brilliant inaugural address was the one given by John F. Kennedy that lasted only fifteen minutes. One of the most memorable sentences in his speech, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” became widely used across the globe.

As mentioned earlier, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, too, was a master of brevity. In 1941, when Churchill was at the zenith of his fame, he was invited to Harrow School to give a speech. The following lines comprised the totality of his address: "Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.”


The shorter and more honest the leader’s words are, the greater impact they have on the audience. The Soviet head Nikita Khrushchev’s speeches usually lasted from two to three hours. The lower the country’s political and economic potential is, the farther from reality the perspectives for development are, and the longer and less persuasive the leaders’ speeches are. This style is typical to all the leaders of the CIS countries; they promise their constituency that after elections people will wake up in a new country—a real paradise. Here the presidential candidates construct such fantastical perspectives for the electorate that Thomas More’s New Island of Utopia might seem like hell in comparison.
None of the leaders today can understand Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev’s idea that no government can build a paradise.

Not creating hell for your own people is already a big accomplishment. Germany was completely destroyed after World War II and the first postwar Chancellor of Germany Konrad Adenauer told the starving electorate: "I don’t promise you bread and butter. You must earn it yourselves through work.” Such sober words are much more perceptible than empty words.

Talented politicians were not only eloquent in their speeches, but they also wrote in the same manner. Speech is a psychologically delicate and complex phenomenon conditioned by the speaker’s culture, experience, and knowledge. Language is a mode of thinking; it is a barometer of our character, spiritual growth, and psycho-moral state. The words of the French naturalist Georges Buffon, "Le style c’est l’homme même” ("The style is the man himself”) make complete sense in this context.
DIPLOMATIC ESSAYS
854 reads | 07.08.2013
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