Speechwriters and others talk about "authenticity" all the time, but for examples we're usually forced to find our examples from outside the absurdly artificial context of the corporate world.
Say what you will about this testimony from the Iraqi journalist who chucked his shoes at President Bush in December; the dude is telling his truth:
More than a million killed, the destruction and humiliation of mosques,
violations against Iraqi women, attacking Iraqis every day and every
A whole people are saddened because of his policy, and he was talking
with a smile on his face and he was joking with the prime minister and
saying he was going to have dinner with him after the press conference.
Believe me, I didn't see anything around me except Bush … I was blind to anything else. I felt the blood of the
innocent people bleeding from beneath his feet and he was smiling in
that way. And then he was going to have a dinner, after he destroyed
one million martyrs, after he destroyed the country.
So I reacted to this feeling by throwing my shoes. I couldn't stop the reaction inside me . It was spontaneous.
And, for better or worse, it was authentic, too.
Joan H. says
I read a similar article this morning, and couldn’t agree with you more, David. Whether one agrees with his reasoning, it’s compelling and offers insight into him and even into his country and culture. I spent a lot of years writing pablum, and then took some creative writing classes, the first one being a class on writing autobiographical pieces. It opened my eyes to true honesty of voice and story, and I have trouble now writing any other way. Maybe it’s because we are people with a long tradition of oral histories, probably dating back to our days living in caves or yurts, but I always prefer the personal to the institutional. What I’ve discovered that surprised me is that institutions don’t have to write without personality; they are, of course, people in the end, working toward a common goal, and those people’s voices can evoke in their audiences the whole range of human emotion. It’s odd that we so often choose the voice that distances us most from our audience when we write on behalf of an organization. There’s so much fear of offense, of revealing too much; and yet it’s in moments of revelation that we discover bonds with others–certainly this is true when people tell their stories. I don’t know why this frightens organizations so much.