President Obama’s speech in Cairo last week prompted an interesting post on the power of words at the popular political blog DailyKos. The post’s general gist? That “words have, at least potentially, the power to move others to action”:
I once heard a story about Albert Schweitzer that also illustrates this. Late in his life when visiting his home area he told a tale on himself in answer to a question about what had moved him on the path that led him to Lambarene. He spoke about a cold and wintry Sunday where his family insisted he go by himself to church so that the family was represented. To his surprise when he got there, he was the only congregant. A young clergyman preached a sermon about service, a sermon Schweitzer said began his own path of service. At the end of the event an elderly clergyman came up to Schweitzer and identified himself as the speaker of that sermon, saying that he had always thought the sermon was a failure.
Far from it.
That anecdote illustrates something obvious but often overlooked: when you make your life your argument, and everything you say is in line with that argument, your words (even those uttered casually) take on a potentially transformative power. Through the ripple effect, your words can move others the way that pastor’s words moved Schweitzer — even though, like that pastor, you might not even know it.