I think often "what's not said" is more important than what is. And because everyone naturally focuses on what was said (and then invariably starts arguing about what it means, and what was actually said, and then chooses a side and digs in, etc), an important part of the conversation never happens.
It's arguably the main reason why many important issues are profoundly constrained in their context - if the original context is "it's either A or B, you need to choose", nobody ever talks about choice C.
I recently listened to a speech given by the prime minister of Ireland (Leo Varadkar), and what struck me most was how unimaginable it would be to hear similar sentiment from the president of the US.
I'm including a transcript of the speech below, and where you see a "*", that's something I literally cannot imagine the president saying, e.g.:
If there's a "**" that's something i think would make his head explode right off of his shoulders before he'd say it .. meaning, it's the polar opposite of something he might say, e.g.:
I think it's sad, the president's leadership right now (or lack thereof), and as I listened to this speech, I was struck by how good it was - it was specific, and called for solidarity, and sacrifice, and gave specific helpful guidance, and thanked people who were putting their health at risk (and possibly their lives), and reminded everyone to take care of themselves and the people around them.
I found it to be comforting (e.g.: "Look after your mental health and well-being, as well as your physical health"), and sensible (e.g.: "We know the best strategies focus on testing, and contact tracing, and social distancing, so that's our strategy"), and above all: competent. And overall, instead of pitting citizens against one another, it called for people to come together in a show of national unity.
There's a huge piece missing from the US response to this crisis, and it can be found in this speech, given by someone who actually knows what he is doing, and I think that's just sad. Everybody talks about what the president says, but it's worth noting what he doesn't.
(In truth, I can't imagine our president saying [literally] any of this)
This is a St Patricks' Day like no other, a day that none of us will ever forget, today's children, will tell their own children, and grandchildren about the national holiday in 2020, that had no parties, and no parades, but instead saw everyone staying at home, to protect each other.
* In years to come, let them say of us, when things were at their worst, we were at our best.
Our country is making big demands of our healthcare staff, and big demands of every single one of us,
Tonite i want you to know why these actions are being taken, and what more needs to be done.
* We're in the middle of a global, and a national emergency, a pandemic, the likes of which none of us has seen before.
So far the number of cases in Ireland has been relatively small, however we believe that the number of cases will rise to 15,000 or more by the end of the month, and rise further in the weeks thereafter.
The vast majority of us who contract Covid-19 will experience only a mild illness, but many will be hospitalized, and sadly, some will die.
* We can't stop the virus, but by working together, we can slow it in it's tracks, and push it back. we can, as you've heard by now, flatten the curve, but only if everyone takes sustained action. nothing less will do.
We all need to take steps to reduce close human contact, that's how the virus is spread. not just in public gatherings, or in public places, but also in our own homes, places of leisure, and work.
* Large public gatherings are cancelled, all pubs and bars are shut, and we've asked people to curtail or cancel social gatherings, like parties, weddings, and other celebrations.
* I know these choices won't be easy, but they are necessary. and more will be required, in the coming weeks, to reduce the spread of the virus.
* At all times we will be guided, and take the expert advice, from our public health emergency team, led by the chief medical officer.
* We will always put your life, and your health, above any other concern. all resources that we have, financial and human, are being deployed to serve this great national effort.
* We're watching what's happening around the world, and we will learn from the experience of other countries affected by Covid-19 before we were. what works, and what doesn't.
* We know the best strategies focus on testing, and contact tracing, and social distancing, so that's our strategy.
We will keep our essential services, supply chains, and utilities operating.
* Many of you want to know when this will be over. the truth is, we just don't know yet.
* This emergency is likely to go on well beyond March 29th. it could go on for months, into the summer, so we need to be sensible in the approaches we take.
We will deploy our full resources to ensure that essential shops, workplaces, and public transport can continue to operate. people will still need to buy goods, and avail of personal services in the weeks and months ahead.
However to do so, we'll need your cooperation, and that of business and industry, to make social distancing workable.
This may mean changing how you do your business. but we will work with you to find safe and creative ways to do exactly this.
It may mean adjusted opening hours, staggering breaks, phone calls and video conferencing instead of meetings, and if possible working from home.
It will mean avoiding unnecessary journeys, shopping online from local businesses, and getting things delivered, rather than going to the physical premises.
* In short, we're asking people to come together as a nation, by staying apart from each other.
* The most basic messages of washing your hands properly, and practicing good hygiene around sneezing and coughing are still the most important.
* And if you have a new cough that isn't going away, or a high temperature or both, stay at home, phone your doctor, and a test will be arranged for you within a few days.
At a certain point, we will advise the elderly, and people who have a long-term illness, to stay at home for several weeks.
* We're putting in place the systems, to ensure that if you are one of them, you will have food, supplies, and are checked on. we call it cocooning, and it will save many lives, particularly the lives of the most vulnerable, the most precious in our society.
I know it's going to be very difficult to stay apart from our loved ones, most grandparents just want to give their grandkids a hug and kiss around now, but as hard as it is, we need to keep our physical distance to stop the virus.
Technology can help too, check in with your loved ones on Skype, or Facetime, and promise them that you'll see them again soon.
We've already seen our fantastic community spirit spring into action, phone your neighbors, see if they need help, and make sure those who are living alone are not left alone.
To all of the young people watching. i know you're probably a bit bored by now, you just want to see your friends, you might even be wishing you were back at school tomorrow, but you're going to have to wait a while longer for that.
And i hope you remember that this time is tough on your parents as well, and so i'm asking you, to ask your parents, at least once a day, what you can do to help them.
* Keep up your schoolwork, and call your grandparents.
Like you, my family has spoken about little else in recent days, the partner, her sisters, and both of their husbands, are working in the health service, here in Ireland and in the UK.
* They are all apprehensive, they've heard the stories from China and Italy, of hospitals being overwhelmed, and medical staff getting sick. i'm so proud of them all.
* Not all superheroes wear capes. some wear scrubs and gowns, and all of our healthcare worker need us to do the right thing in the weeks ahead.
* Our community services and hospitals are being tooled up. essential equipment is on the way. retired staff are returning to service. people are training for changed roles.
* This is the calm before the storm. before the surge.
* And when it comes, and it will come, never will so many, ask so much of so few. we will do all that we can to support them.
* I'm also grateful to the many people who have joined this great national effort, not just our healthcare staff, but also our army cadets, our librarians,
our civil servants, who are now learning how to do contact tracing.
The early education and childcare workers, offering to look after children for our frontline staff, so they can go to work.
The teacher and lecturers, finding new, innovative ways to teach students online. and putting together contingency plans for the leaving cert (?) and college exams.
The people who are stocking our shelves every day, and those who are serving customers. our * haulers (?) who leave their families on a Sunday evening, travel across the continent, to ensure we have the products, medicines, and equipment we need.
* All those who keep our supply chain moving. working in transport. we thank them, it's a frontline service too.
** Our journalists and broadcasters, who are helping us to inform and educate the public, are all deserving of our respect and thanks.
Coronavirus is already having a deep impact on jobs and economic activity, and will continue to do so.
Some people watching will have seen their jobs lost, businesses closed, or working hours reduced. and more will be worried that it might happen to them. especially as we don't know when the emergency will end.
* I know this is causing huge stress and anxiety to you and your families, on top of the fear of the virus.
* While we don't have all of the answers now, we are doing, and will do, all that we can to help you through the time ahead.
You will receive income support as quickly and efficiently as possible, and when we're through the worst, we'll get people back to work, and get businesses open again.
* Everyone in our society must show solidarity at this time of national sacrifice.
* For those who lost their jobs, or had their income reduced, there will be help and understanding, from whose who can give it, particularly the banks, government bodies, and utilities.
We went into this crisis with a strong economy, and the public finances in good order.
We have the capacity, and the credit rating, to borrow billions if we need to, and i'm confident our economy will bounce back, but the damage will be significant, and lasting. the bill will be enormous, and it may takes years to pay it.
The government has already signed off on a 3B Euro package for health, social welfare and business, and will take further action as needed.
Tonite i know many of you are feeling scared, and overwhelmed, that's a normal reaction. but we will get through this, and we will prevail.
** We need to halt the spread of the virus, but we also need to halt the spread of fear. so please rely only on information from trusted sources. from governments, the HSE, the World Health Organization, and from the national media.
** Please don't forward, or share messages, that are from other, unreliable services. so much harm has already been caused by those messages.
** And we must insulate our communities and the most vulnerable from the contagion of fear.
** Fear is a virus in itself.
Please take regular breaks from watching the news and media, and consuming social media, constantly scrolling on your phone or obsessively following the latest developments isn't good for anyone.
* Look after your mental health and well-being, as well as your physical health.
** Tonite, on our national holiday, i want to send a message around the world, we are in this together.
* To the people of China, Spain, and Italy, who have suffered untold heartbreak and loss, we are with you.
* To everyone who has lost a loved one to this virus, we are with you.
* To all those who are living in the shadow of what is to come, we are with you.
* Viruses pay no attention to borders, race, nationality, or gender. They are the shared enemy of all humanity. And so will be a shared enterprise of all humanity that finds a treatment and a vaccine that protects us.
* Tonight I send a message of friendship and of hope from Ireland to everyone around the world.