The use of humor often presents the best insights of any political speech. Two well-known figures, Mikhail Gorbachev and David Axelrod, made good use of humor in speeches made in local venues recently.

Any speechwriter will tell you that the best way to connect with members of an audience is to make them laugh.


Everyone responds well to humor. And two public figures who made appearances within the past couple of weeks offered examples of how to be more persuasive by using it effectively.


Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet Union, was the keynote speaker April 21 for the second annual World Leaders Forum at Judson University in Elgin, Ill. Democratic strategist David Axelrod paid a visit to Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill., last week to participate in a program offered through the school’s Center for Civic Leadership.


Both men sprinkled jokes throughout their talks.


Axelrod said his experience as a journalist right from the start helped him become a campaign strategist. He worked for the Chicago Tribune after graduating from the University of Chicago.


“When I began working at the Tribune, I was on the night beat,” Axelrod said. “I covered murder and mayhem — which was good practice for Chicago politics!”


When asked what he thought of then-President Reagan’s call for him to tear down the Berlin Wall, Gorbachev said it didn’t have the same effect in the Soviet Union that it had here in the United States.


“We were not really impressed by that statement,” Gorbachev said through a translator. “We knew what President Reagan’s original profession was (an actor).”


Axelrod said the elation of winning the 2008 presidential campaign was soon subdued by the reality of the economic conditions the nation was facing. Economic adviser Larry Summers told members of the incoming administration there was a 1 in 3 chance the nation could fall into a full-scale depression.


“At this point, I excused myself and went out to explore to see if we could get a recount,” Axelrod said.


Toward the end of his speech, Gorbachev began listing global challenges needing attention. Remarking how he was only supposed to speak for about 15 minutes, he observed, “OK, time is something else we need to fight for!”


Can I got a rimshot?



Jerry Moore is the opinions editor for Suburban Life Publications. Contact him at (630) 368-8930 or jmoore@mysuburbanlife.com.