Will Arnold be Hobbled in His Inaugural and State of the State Addresses?

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A communications coach examines how California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's broken leg might affect two important speeches this month.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's speeches are rarely boring. Even run of the mill speeches have contained references to "girlie men" and last year's State of the State address, usually a yawner when delivered by every other governor in the nation, was instead a surprisingly candid and effective mea culpa for his failed effort to get four referendums passed in a widely unpopular special election.

This month's duo of significant speeches, Schwarzenegger's Inaugural address on January 5th and his State of the State address now scheduled to be given just four days later on the 9th, promise to be interesting if for no other reason than the Governor will be giving them on crutches after breaking his right thigh bone in a skiing accident over the holidays.

LeeAundra Temescu, a communications coach who trains high level executives and government officials in public speaking, says that this will not hurt Schwarzenegger, in fact it may be a boon. "Even on crutches, Arnold is still the Terminator in most people's eyes. I'm sure he'll take full advantage of the situation to make some joke about it, which will allow him to showcase one of his greatest strengths -- his self-deprecating humor."

Although the circumstances of a permanent disability are hugely different from a broken leg which will heal, from an image standpoint, it's tempting to contrast Schwarzenegger's situation with President Franklin Roosevelt's extraordinary efforts to keep his inability to stand or walk without crutches hidden from the American public. The wartime leader, who was paralyzed after suffering from polio, was rarely seen in public or photographed with his crutches for fear it would fatally compromise his presidential image. But Temescu asserts that "disabilities, especially temporary ones, do not have the same negative stigma they once had and Schwarzenegger's reputation as an action star and body builder inoculates him from the charges of weakness and frailty that Roosevelt and his people were afraid of. And a skiing accident is a pretty macho way to hurt yourself, anyway."

What else should the Governor do to ensure his success in these speeches? Temescu advises the Governor to elevate the inaugural address above partisanship, "Inaugurals are not about politics. The best inaugural addresses have always helped the people of California connect with government in an ideal sense and remind them of how they fit into the California Dream. Keep it positive and eloquent. Attacks on the opposition have no place here. That's for the State of the State."

As for the State of the State, Temescu is adamant that Schwarzenegger not repeat the mistake of George W. Bush, who after being re-elected in 2004, boasted that he had been given political capital and intended to use it. "Bush was about as wrong as you can be on that count. Schwarzenegger would do well to learn from this and not give in to hubris, even after a resounding landslide."

The Contrary Public Speaker is an executive communications coaching firm based in Los Angeles. Founded by national award winning public speaker, author and commentator, LeeAundra Temescu, it provides high-level presentation skills, in-the-moment training and executive presence for top-level managers and professionals.

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LEEAUNDRA TEMESCU
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