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Is Panti Bliss the Greatest Orator of our Age? OR? This is what Patriotism should sound like.

December 28, 2015

I’ve been teaching a class on oratory this year, in which this question was asked.

Fintan O’ Toole declared that Panti Bliss was the greatest Irish orator since Daniel O’Connell, following Panti’s great speech on the stage of the Abbey Theatre – a bold statement which sounds increasingly reasonable.

This Christmas, my sense of Panti’s oratorical brilliance was enhanced by her Christmas Address to the nation.  See above.  Or below if that’s quicker for you.

I’m not sure what the word “gracious” means, I mean – if forced to define the word using other words.    But future dictionaries should just define it using a link to this video.   This is just about the most warm and “gracious” speech you’ve ever heard.

Reglecting on the 2015 Irish Marriage referendum, it has an calm and reasoned sense of joyous satisfaction while utterly rejecting any kind of triumphalism.  It is also just about the most patriotic speech I’ve ever heard.  It describes exactly what love of country ought to mean – i.e. love for real people actually living in a country.  Most people who proclaim themselves “patriots” these days are of course criminal lunatics who actually despise most of the people living in the country whose flag they wave.  Panti’s speech loves a country that wants that country’s people to be loved back.

Stylistically, this speech is beautifully cadenced.  It doesn’t avoid cliche, it hugs selected cliches with affectionate humour – greeting them like old friends.  Panti has the gift of being special and ordinary at the same time – self deprecating and yet assertive at one and the same time.  When Panti is serious it’s because of an imperative of higher love – but humour pricks the pomposity as a kind of necessary punctuation.  Everything sounds right.

This speech forced me to think about “Regality”.  As a committed republican, I’m suspicious even of adjectives derived from monarchic epistems.  I won’t even watch The Lion King.  But if there is anything – anything at all – that is impressive about regality – then Panti Bliss demonstrates it in this Christmas broadcast.  She plays the Queen better than any hereditary ruler on earth.  Perhaps because Panti’s performance is the product of life experience.  It’s because Panti is the proud but fiercely critical child of an evolving republic that she can play the Queen so effectively.

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