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The best thing about the President’s speech

The President’s speech was a much-needed wake up call. Let’s just hope our politicians are not going to hit the snooze button

josanne_cassar
Josanne Cassar
19 December 2016, 7:43am
Boiled down to its essence, the President's speech was about building a society which stands up against hatred, malice, social injustice, greed, exploitation, discrimination, a lack of common decency, unscrupulousness, dishonesty and puerile political bickering
Boiled down to its essence, the President's speech was about building a society which stands up against hatred, malice, social injustice, greed, exploitation, discrimination, a lack of common decency, unscrupulousness, dishonesty and puerile political bickering
It is not often, in fact it is rare, that a speech by a public figure is applauded by practically everyone, irrespective of their political leanings. But President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, who was clearly speaking from her heart, managed to achieve precisely this with her Republic Day speech. While a lot has already been written about what she said, I think it is even more pertinent to acknowledge that the positive response by the man-in-the-street is even more significant, because it indicates a changing shift in public opinion. 

Suffice it to say the video was viewed almost 15,000 times, which is not usually the case with these type of run-of-the-mill speeches given on formal occasions. In another rather unusual twist (for a presidential speech), it was even featured on the Lovin’ Malta site, which is usually reserved for youth-oriented, trendy, pop culture news items. The speech was crunched down into one of their trademark ‘lists’, ranging from “First, she casually listed everything that pisses us off every day” to “this beautiful assessment of why the economy is doing well and who should not be taking credit for it”. Someone in the comments summed it up perfectly by asking, “when did we get such a badass President?” while another one suggested that she should have done an Obama and “dropped the mic”.

There were other comments on FB, by such groups as ‘Nsalvaw L-Irhula Taghna’, which said: “Our President is also seemingly supporting our campaign against overdevelopment in Lija!”

Another person wrote: “I just dig this woman! Gave greedy self-serving politicians a slap in the face! Hear hear”; while yet another described her as a “force to be reckoned with”.

The accolades were many, including “This woman has guts and I actually wondered how long it would take for her to grab the bull by the horns.” and “Does Malta have it’s own version of Bernie Sanders?’

Members of the media also perked up and paid attention, with Times of Malta’s Digital Editor Herman Grech writing that it was “Quite possibly the best Republic Day speech I’ve heard” and blogger Mel Hart penning a blog post entitled “When Words Resonate”. 

Dissett even dedicated a whole programme to it, which in itself is not very common when it comes to speeches, with the participation of several political observers who analysed the concerns she raised. 

The reaction was very telling because the way the President spoke is what good leadership sounds like, which indicates that the majority of people are positively thirsting for someone at the helm to take charge and be their voice and express what they are feeling. She didn’t shy away from addressing what is really bothering people, and she accurately zoomed in on those areas of society which need to be improved.

Boiled down to its essence, her speech was about building a society which stands up against hatred, malice, social injustice, greed, exploitation, discrimination, a lack of common decency, unscrupulousness, dishonesty and puerile political bickering. I think what she said was so well-received because she was extremely fair and just with her criticism; there were no double standards, no two weights and two measures or pointing fingers at one sector of society while tacitly letting other sectors get away with whatever they want. I likened her speech to an axe which was cutting through all the BS in what has become an almost jungle society of ours, and getting right to the nitty gritty of things. To put it succinctly, it is clear that the majority of people, from what I can see, really just want to live in a civilized, fair, respectful society.

And I think this is what people zeroed in on, and recognized in her words: that she was acting like a true President, and exhibiting correct statesmanlike behaviour. The fact that we are not getting these type of powerful, brutally honest and yet uplifting speeches from our main political leaders or politicians is because they are so busy pointing fingers at each other (“Why are you talking about what we did? Look at what you lot did!”). It’s exhausting, tedious and very, very boring. 

It’s like those people who keep recalling past arguments and disputes every chance they get, picking at them like old scabs so that the wounds never quite heal and you keep going round in circles about who said what to whom and who was to blame and who started it.

Most of us here on Planet Earth just cannot take it any more and are saying, “enough already!”. So, my question is: are the politicians who claim to be so much in tune with the public pulse really listening to the people they claim to know so well? I doubt it, because if they did they would wake up from their blinkered view of what THEY think the Maltese people want for their country. I cannot know what is going on in their minds, but one thing is for sure – not many are sensing the zeitgeist the way that Her Excellency has. 

What is usually a stuffy, let’s face it, rather yawn-inducing speech which barely registers on the public’s consciousness has managed to do what so few of the current leaders have managed to do when they speak: it has shaken people out of their complacency and their defeatist attitude of resignation which is so very Maltese, “ħeqq, m’hemmx x’taghmel hux?” (what can you do?) whenever faced by something which bothers them. It is understandable in a way because we are at a point where we are being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things which are not quite right, every single one of which was mentioned in the President’s speech.

I think it was the very fact that she, of all people, voiced these concerns: a former Labour politician who was appointed under a Labour administration, that made all the difference. No one can accuse her of being “partisan” because, guess what, this is her side of the fence.

But what she said has gone a long way towards reminding those who care to be reminded that those running the country were elected on a ticket which, historically, has always been on the side of the blue collar worker, in the belief that everyone in society should have the right to a decent pay, decent housing and a decent standard of living.

That Malta should not just become another Dubai simply because there is a coterie of businessmen who have been given carte blanche to act as if they have colonized the island and the rest of us are just their serfs. 

The President’s speech was a much-needed wake up call. Let’s just hope our politicians are not going to hit the snooze button.

josanne_cassar
Josanne Cassar's field is communications – and over the last 30 years she has worked in ...
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