#133) A Major Milestone: The Completion of 6 Story Circles at the National Park Service is the Start of “Narrative Culture”

I dreamed of it at the end of, “Houston, We Have A Narrative.” Now they’ve done it.  Last year the good folks at the National Park Service in Fort Collins, Colorado (and Lakewood!) launched 6 Story Circles involving 32 scientists and communicators.  All 6 went the distance, with the last one completing their 10th session this week. Along the way they established a new tradition — the ABT Cake (or pie!) to celebrate the 10th session along with the completion certificates (important in a government agency). Of course, the training is not finished.  It never is.  Story Circles just orients you with the tools and mindset to start seeing narrative structure better and thinking more deeply about it. This is now a nucleus of 32 people who can speak the ABT Framework among themselves as they shape the narrative structure of all their projects and communication.  It’s a major accomplishment, with huge thanks to Larry Perez, the Communications Coordinator who masterminded the entire effort from start to finish.

THREE CAKES AND A PIE.  These are 4 of the 6 circles, celebrating their 10th and final session with ABT cakes and an ABT pie.

 

THIS IS MY DREAM

Here is it, in living color.  I started the last chapter of, “Houston, We Have A Narrative” in 2015 talking about the idea of what I termed, “Narrative Culture.”  It’s the concept of a group of co-workers being versed in the ABT Framework and the narrative tools we introduce in Story Circles.  If they all speak this common language of narrative structure, and have practiced the idea of working on someones narrative as a group, using the narrative tools, that they can begin to not only work together, but also set standards where they can spot AAA and DHY problems and work to reduce them. 

Here’s what I said about it:


Having a narrative culture within an organization or university department or research institution could mean you have reached a critical threshold of people who have undergone narrative training, have developed the basics of narrative intuition, and now the norms have shifted. They know the narrative templates. They speak with a shared narrative vocabulary.

 And there is now a certain level of expectation of narrative clarity and cohesion.  It’s not a lot to learn, there’s just a need to learn it well. 


Here’s what Story Circles Narrative Training provides, and why it’s so valuable:

 

1 THE TOOLS – introduces the participants to the ABT, the Dobzhansky Template, the Story Cycle and the Log Line Maker

2 NARRATIVE INTUITION  it puts them on the pathway towards the ultimate goal of narrative intuition

3 SOCIAL ENTRAINMENT –  it gets everyone in the habit of developing narrative structure as a group, which is essential

 

SO WHAT’S NEXT?

With many of the participants there’s a feeling of “That was great — what’s next?”   We’ve gotten that with other circles.  The Fort Collins USGS circle that took part in our AAAS video told about how they wanted to keep meeting after the ten sessions were done.

For now, it’s up to the circles to just meet on their own and view themselves as a resource.  For one previous circle there were four scientists and a communicator.  The communicator now speaks the ABT Framework language with the four scientists and is able to use them as a resource for analysis of press releases and papers.

We’ll eventually develop some sort of Story Circles 2.0.  We were talking about it at USDA three years ago from the start.  For now, the main goal is to just get large numbers of people through the training and let them continue to work and talk among themselves. We’re approaching 50 circles, and if you add up all the scientists and communicators who have taken part in the nearly 30 Demo Days, the total number of people involved is well over 1,000.  

Slowly, slowly, changing the way people look at communications training.  Getting them to realize, “Narrative is Everything.”

 

HERE’S THE VISION …

Plain and simple, as laid out in this figure on page 220 of “Houston, We Have A Narrative.”

#132) Michelle Wolf’s Narrative Index was a Stunning 47

On Saturday night comedian Michelle Wolf blew the doors off the White House Correspondents Dinner, besting even Stephen Colbert’s famous 2006 performance. Her Narrative Index (But/And ratio) was a sky high 47 — the highest I’ve ever measured.  I’ve been saying this for a while — it’s what you get with comedians — very dense, concise ABT structure.  Bill Maher’s monologues average 33. Imagine what would have happened if Michelle Wolf had been head speech writer for Hillary Clinton.  I’m serious.

NARRATIVE THAT BITES RATHER THAN BORES.

 

TWISTS AND TURNS

Hopefully by now you’ve at least heard about the stunningly hilarious “speech” comedian Michelle Wolf delivered on Saturday night at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

Here’s the ABT Framework analysis. Look at her stats:

       BUT                                                                  21

       AND                                                                  45

       NARRATIVE INDEX                                         47

       AND INDEX                                                      1.8

The Narrative Index is just the ratio of BUTs to ANDs.  I’ve been studying it for three years now.  I’ve calculated it for at least 2,000 speeches.  None has ever scored this high. 

In general, dull speakers (GW Bush) score under 10.  Average speakers are in the teens (Hillary Clinton low teens, Bill Clinton high teens).  Good speakers are in the 20’s (Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr.).  Comedians are in the 30’s.  Richard Nixon reached the 40’s with his first inaugural address.

But Michelle Wolf … in addition to lighting the White House Correspondents Dinner on fire (even more than Stephen Colbert’s gutsy performance during the Bush years), she managed to ring the bell like no one ever before.  

These things go hand in hand.  For comedy to work, it has to be tight.  Her comedy was incredibly tight.  The Narrative Index reveals this quantitatively.

 

POLITICIAN, GET THEE A COMEDIAN 

I’m so serious about this it’s painful.  How dense can politicians be?  Get yourself a comedian for your writing staff.  NOT to write jokes.  Get a comedian because they have what I termed in “Houston, We Have A Narrative,” the essential quality of “narrative intuition” if they’re any good. 

Comedians get this stuff.  They bore easily.  That’s what you want in order to reach the masses —  someone who is not enthralled by your economic eight point plan.  

Form matters.  If jokes are long, boring or confusing they will destroy the performance.  Comedians understand form at an intuitive level.  Most politicians don’t, but they should.

Just to see how she uses the word “but” to turn so many of her lines, here’s the first five occurrences of it in her speech: 

I never really thought I’d be a comedian, but I did take an aptitude test in 7th grade,

People are saying America is more divided than ever, but I think no matter what you support politically, we can all agree this is a great time for craft stores.

I know there’s a lot of people that want me to talk about Russia and Putin and collusion, but I’m not going to do that because there’s also a lot of liberal media here and I’ve never really wanted to know what any of you look like when you orgasm.

Trump isn’t here, if you haven’t noticed, he’s not here. And I know, I know, I would drag him here myself, but it turns out the president of the United States is the one pussy you’re not allowed to grab.

Now, I know people really want me to go after Trump tonightbut I think we should give the president credit when he deserves it.

#131) Our California Climate Adaptation Podcast Special with UCLA: “A Freight Train of Pain” is Coming

Working with Doug Parsons, host of America Adapts: the Climate Change Podcast, we produced a 3 part series on the issue of climate adaptation for the state of California.  It’s sponsored by UCLA’s Institute of Environment and Sustainability, and features a half dozen of their faculty.  The mood of the piece is light, but the actual contents are pretty dark as 20 experts weigh in with a fairly grim prognosis.  The predictions paint a picture of a state that will increasingly look like Baja for vegetation due to wildfire, has an approaching, “freight train of pain” for the issue of drought, and ultimately will confront “the greatest crisis humanity will ever face,” with sea level rise.  We were hoping for a happier ending.  Oh, well.


AN OUTSTANDING CAST!   

 

TWO CAREER FIRES IN ONE YEAR

Last month Doug Parsons and I produced, “California Adapts” a 3 part special for his podcast, “America Adapts: The Climate Change Podcast,” that takes a close look at the state of California.  Given that most of America now accepts that climate is changing (check out the report released this week from the Yale climate folks arguing this), it’s time to focus more on the question of, “So how are you gonna handle it?”

The podcast opens with Jeff Mount of U.C. Davis doing a powerful job of telling about the great flood of 1861/62 that so devastated Sacramento the capital had to be temporarily moved to San Francisco.  From there, Mary Nichols (long time head of California’s Air Resources Board) and actor/environmentalist Ed Begley, Jr. tell the story of how Los Angeles solved the smog problem of the 1970’s.

These two stories set the stage for the journey Doug takes around the state in the second episode.  We divided the issue of climate adaptation into five main topics — fire, flood, drought, temperature and sea level rise.   For each one he goes out into the field with an expert, then we interview others in search of a clear idea of how prepared the state is for climate change.

In the final episode we go back to a few of the experts to ask them for their bottom line opinion on what the future will look like.  The answers range from somewhat unsettling to very unsettling.  

I have to say, it certainly opened my eyes to how serious the problems are.  One of the most disconcerting bits is when Fire Captain Tony McHale of the Ojai Fire Station talks about the term “career fire” which means a once in a lifetime-sized fire.  He says, “We’ve had two career fires in the past year — what does that say?”

The big problem is infrastructure.  The future is going to need new approaches, and while it’s clear that there are lots of plans and ideas on how to deal with it, what’s not so clear is where the resources are going to come from and when the major actions are going to begin.

#130) The ABT/Narrative Fingerprint of the United States

Southerners tell stories, northerners are more informational/intellectualMaybe.  More than a billion tweets suggest this.

 

YOU MIGHT THINK EVERYONE TELLS STORIES, BUT … LOOKS LIKE THERE’S SOME REGIONAL VARIATION.

 

THE GREAT AMERICAN WORDMAPPER SHOWS AMERICA’S “BUT VS. AND” PATTERNS

One of the best payoffs from the presentation Jayde Lovell and I gave at SXSW Interactive was the vigorous discussions that popped up on Twitter.  In the middle of one of them we got a big treat which you can see above.

Jack Grieve is a “forensic linguist” at Ashton University in the U.K.  He joined our discussion and mentioned this amazing study he was part of.  It’s called The Great American Word Mapper, where they analyzed over a billion tweets in the United States.

On Monday this week we had him connect through Skype to our Story Circles Narrative Training Demo Day with USGS folks in Minneapolis.  He told us more detail about the study.   It turns out every time you tweet, there are geographic coordinates recorded.  That’s what they used to produce this amazing regional resource.

We were discussing my Narrative Index (BUT/AND x 100).  He sent us the above plots for BUT versus AND.  Which is incredibly fascinating.  And exactly what I would predict.

 

SOUTHERNERS ARE STORYTELLERS 

Long, long ago, when I was still a professor at UNH, I heard a talk from the Director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi.  He made the case that the south is THE voice of American culture.  He based this on a number of aspects, such as the only truly original art form the U.S. has given the world is jazz music, and the largest number of great novelists and playwrights have come from the south.   He also pointed out there are no other centers for the study of culture for other parts of the country. 

Having grown up in Kansas and spent plenty of time in the south, I definitely know that it is the greatest region for storytelling in the country.  Which means I would expect it to be the region of the greatest ABT activity, and thus … exactly what you see — the greatest use of BUT in tweets.

There’s lots of other reasons for this pattern you could suggest.  He felt it was strongly correlated to African American populations, but … look at Maryland — it has the 4th highest percentage of African American population.  And look at New York versus Arkansas — they have the same percentage.

I think it’s a higher level function.  I would argue the north/south difference in storytelling holds across all ethnicities.  But then what do I know — I’m just making this ABT stuff up as we go along!

#129) President Trump Shows How the Narrative Index Works

PREDICTION:  A well written comic speech should have an exceptionally high Narrative Index (BUT/AND ratio) — meaning above 20, ideally in the 30’s as Bill Maher’s weekly monologues almost always have.  OBSERVATION:  President Trump’s Gridiron comic speech on March 4, 2018 scored a stunningly high 44.  There is a science to narrative structure.  

TRUMP DELIVERS A WELL CRAFTED COMIC SPEECH. Regardless of content, whoever wrote it for him did an expert job with the narrative structure, and the speech was well received.

  

GREETINGS FROM SXSW INTERACTIVE

I’m in Austin where tomorrow Jayde Lovell and I will present our panel titled, Selling Science (Before the World Melts Down).”  Here’s a little tip for the science world on how to sell yourself — get to know these two narrative metrics I’ve been working with for the past 2.5 years.

NARRATIVE INDEX =  BUT / AND

AND INDEX =  AND / TOTAL WORDS (% of words that are “and”)

  

TRUMP KNOWS NARRATIVE

On March 4 President Trump delivered a comic speech to the Gridiron Club.  The Narrative Index was 44 which is extremely high (38 BUTs, 87 ANDs).  I’ve only found one other speech ever that was above 40 which was Richard Nixon’s first inaugural (a barn burner from the guy who was determined to get himself into the Oval Office at all costs).

Good comedy has a high Narrative Index.  It has to.  Comedians cannot afford to bore or confuse.  They need to hit story points that are clear, and emerge at a consistent pace. 

These metrics are clear and predictable, and yet all I get from journalists is, “yeah, we know.”  Really?  Where?  Show me one article you’ve written on this.  

To the contrary, just look at the upheaval last year at the World Bank when Chief Economist Paul Romer tried to implement the “Bankspeak” study by Moretti and Pestre of the Stanford Literary Lab revealing the problem with the And Index for World Bank reports.  The end result was a kibosh on the whole concept.

Minds are closed to these metrics, but they will open soon enough.  Our SXSW panel tomorrow will be the next effort.

#128) How the Kids in Florida are like The March for Science

Two spontaneous sets of events, both arising from the ground up.  The message of gun control from the Florida kids is clear — our leadership has failed us.  What was less clear last year was that the March For Science had the same message — the organizers just didn’t take it as far.  But it’s the same situation — kids under attack, science under attack — in both cases politicians and leaders unwilling or unable to act.  My heart is firmly with both groups.  

 What happens when leadership fails.

 

 PRESSURE FROM BELOW

In early April Island Press will publish the the 2nd edition of my first book, Don’t Be Such A Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style.”  I’ve written 50 pages of new content for it, including a new Introduction.  The core message of the new material is, “Make Science Human.”  Below is a section I wrote about the March for Science last year.

Now, watching the news about the heart wrenching, long overdue spontaneous gun control movement emerging in Florida I see great similarities.  Their movement is far more dire and urgent, but both are at the core about one thing — failed leadership.

I’ve been observing the attacks on science since my 2006 documentary, “Flock of Dodos:  The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus.”  I’ve been stunned at the inaction of the higher ranks of the science community in defending their own profession.  The March for Science was explicitly about the attacks on science, with the key slogan of “Science Not Silence.”

But what wasn’t articulated was the source of the problems — leadership that does nothing.  In the case of Florida, the outrage is quantum levels greater. They are not pulling any punches as they point the finger of blame at congress, as they rightfully should. 

Science should keep an eye on how they are managing to take their movement to the next level.

Here’s what I’ve written about the March for Science in the upcoming 2nd edition.

 

And . . . the Problem Came to Life with the March for Science

Spontaneity. Not a common trait for the science world. I talk about it in detail in the first chapter of this book—how scientists lack it and how improv acting fosters it. Spontaneity is the antidote for the excessively cerebral.

Scientists are great if you let them control every single thing that is going to happen. You can see this in how experiments are run. They usually include these things called “controls.” Does that term give you a little feel for how scientists feel about spontaneity? As soon as something unplanned crops up, watch out. 

Such is the wonderful and inspiring story of the March for Science. Nobody at the top of the science world was involved with its inception.

In military terms, it was like low-level soldiers planning a mass rally by taking their plans to the top general, putting a gun to his head, and saying, “You’re in favor of this, right?” That’s essentially what happened with the March for Science when it came to the major science organizations—they were approached after the march was already planned. Many of them felt too rushed, too pressured, and declined to officially support it.

The idea for the march began with a discussion on the Internet site Reddit in January—just three months before the march itself took place. A few people were innocently talking about the Women’s March, a month earlier, which had involved over 4 million participants. Someone mentioned the idea of doing the same thing for science. A small group agreed. They were just average folks—no heads of organizations. They organized a Facebook group, and to their surprise the membership began growing rapidly.

I spoke with Valorie Aquino, one of the three codirectors of the march. She said they had a conference call in which they mused over the 1,000 members the Facebook group now had. They ended their call with a clear plan of how to grow the group to about 3,000 within a month.

The next morning they awoke to the stunning news that the group had grown overnight to 10,000. Within a week it had passed 100,000. By the time I spoke with her, it was approaching a million. Clearly, they had struck a chord. But where did all the energy come from?

 

Figure I-1. The 2017 March for Science started spontaneously in the gut. It was a narrative mess, but . . . it made me feel something because it was human. Photo in the public domain; accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

 

My friend Aaron Huertas joined the communications team for the project. Initially we both felt the march needed a clear message, which means “a narrative”—a clear problem-solution dynamic. Now I see I was kind of wrong.

Ed Yong in the Atlantic pointed out the confusion by listing twenty-one messages that were being mentioned by organizers of the march. A number of articles were written arguing against the march itself. Many complained that the whole effort was politicizing science.

In the end, the organizers really weren’t certain whether the event was meant to be a happy, fun science day for the family (like a science festival) or a more adult-oriented science version of the Women’s March a few months earlier, which was filled with contempt for the newly elected president.

 

Putting the Mess into Messaging

The messaging ended up being a mess, but so what—turns out sometimes you don’t need a message . . . yet. I remember arguing this in September 2011, when the Occupy Wall Street movement emerged. The protestors’ narrative wasn’t very clear during the first week they began generating mass attention. Lots of news pundits—including my longtime hero Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s Hardball—criticized the movement, saying, “They don’t know what they want.”

But mass movements are almost never created by intellectuals with clearly thought-out plans. No, they generally arise from the masses, who are driven by the gut. Down the line, things move to the head—which is exactly what we eventually saw several years later as Senator Bernie Sanders began articulating a plan of action pursuing basically the same goals as the disorganized youngsters who occupied Wall Street.

So, despite the rain that spring Saturday morning in Washington, DC, tens of thousands of happy, fun, enthusiastic people turned up and the event was a stunning success. People carried all kinds of wildly creative and inspiring signs. Speeches were given before the march. They weren’t the sort of landmark speeches that have historically accompanied major protest events in Washington, DC. The speakers didn’t really seem to know what to say because . . . there was no clear message. But again, so what?

At the end of the march, in front of the Capitol building, there was . . . nothing. Just a woman with a bullhorn telling everyone in the rain to visit the website and keep the effort going. And that still didn’t matter. The event was all about the hour-and-a-half-long march itself and the sheer mass of humanity that was present, acting not like scientists but more like humans.

The crowd size was estimated at around 100,000. You could criticize it to pieces for not having a clear message if you wanted to impress your friends. Or you could just soak it all in and even feel some emotion about it. I went with the latter.

At just about the start time, I exited the Ronald Reagan Building, taking a break from a conservation event, and joined my old marine biologist buddy Bob Steneck of the University of Maine. We strolled down into the masses and marched from the start, near the Washington Monument. Within a few minutes we ran into Dr. Daniel Pauly, another old buddy and the famous fisheries biologist who coined the popular term “shifting baselines,” which I talk about in the first chapter. About halfway up Constitution Avenue, Bob and I stepped out of the crowd to walk up the stairs at the IRS building and watch the river of humans flow past. It was downright breathtaking.

What hit me most was the age range of marchers. There were lots of families with kids. Some we talked to had no connection to the world of science— they were just there for the spirit of it.

Others carried amazing signs—like two little kids holding a sign saying, “This family has five scientists!” Another family pushed a young woman in a wheelchair with a sign saying “Thanking Science for Research on Multiple Sclerosis.” That’s the stuff that made me look down at the ground and choke back tears. It really hit you—there was a huge, supremely human element to the event.

But the obvious question was, why was the turnout for the March for Science, despite the pouring rain, so incredibly large and inspired?

#127) THE NARRATIVE METRICS GAME: How Will Trump’s State of the Union Score?

The Narrative Index (BUT/AND x 100) is not super-precise but certain patterns do emerge— like Nixon’s fierceness and George W. Bush’s stunning blandness.  When Trump writes his own materialhis values are high (over 20), when others write it for him, they’re low (around 10).   I’m predicting he’s around 10 to 15, and with an And Index that is closer to the score of journalists than research reports.

 

STATE OF THE NARRATIVE.  The error bars represent the range of values for the State of the Union speeches of the past 8 presidents.  George W. Bush was the ultimate “And, And, And” president.  His AND INDEX (% of words that are “and”) averaged 4.7, which is right up there with World Bank reports (= Zzzz …).

 

LET’S SEE HOW AGGRESSIVE TRUMP IS

Nobody wants to give in to the simplicity of these two little metrics yet.  Last year World Bank Chief Economist Paul Romer was booted from a committee for trying to use the AND INDEX.   But with time the “experts” will come to realize they’re real.  

It’s two simple numbers:

THE NARRATIVE INDEX =  BUT/AND x 100

THE AND INDEX =  AND/TOTAL WORDS (expressed as a percentage)

 I’ve gotten tired of trying to interest journalists in them — they apparently think there can’t be this sort of meaningful simplicity in the world.  The Narrative Index usually has a fair amount of noise around it, but there are some patterns that are undeniable.  Nixon’s first inaugural speech scored a blazing 46.  That’s the highest I’ve ever seen for any speech. After waiting a lifetime to be president, he was roaring with pent up frustration.

Eisenhower’s State of the Union speeches went from bland in his early years (6, 6, 5, 5, 7) to feistier in his last three years (19, 11, 12) as he foretold the impending perils of the military industrial complex.  But the biggest shocker is George W. Bush who never scored above 5 in his State of the Union addresses.  He was a nice fellow who just didn’t want to push anybody (which is what’s happening when you use the word “but” a lot).

 

WHERE WILL TRUMP SCORE?

You can bet I’ll be calculating both indices for him as soon as the transcript is posted.  I do it every week for Bill Maher’s ending monologue  on his HBO show.  Almost without fail, as I’ve noted in previous posts, he is always above 30.  That’s because he’s angry and he’s arguing fiercely, and he has a crack team of comedy writers who know how to disgorge narrative content without wasting words or falling into the land of “And, And, And.”

I’m guessing Trump will be around 15 for the Narrative Index and 3.5 for the And Index. Tune in the next morning, I’ll tweet what it is.

#126) The Dangerous Depth of Trump’s Narrative Strength


Yes, I know that no one likes to hear it, but these are hard, cold facts.  Michael Crichton said in 1999, “The information society will be dominated by those who are most skilled at manipulating the media.”  He foretold Trump, plain and simple.  Just look at yesterday’s immigration meeting.

 

 WHO’S A MEDIA MANIPULATOR?  

 

“SLOPPY STEVE” IS NOT FUNNY

Mass communication is about age old “archplot” dynamics, more than anything else.  As Robert McKee outlined in his landmark 1997 book, “Story,” the first and most important element of archplot is “The Single Protagonist,” which just means the singular narrative.  The importance of this was hammered home in the 2012 best seller “The One Thing.”  Plain, simple, uni-dimensional, no nuance, no subtlety.

Every time you hear one of Trump’s silly nicknames — like Sloppy Steve Bannon over the past week — you shouldn’t be chuckling.  The names may seem like fun, but you should be thinking of Crichton’s 1999 line that, “The information society will be dominated by those who are most skilled at manipulating the media.”  

The names are simple, logical (at least based on his opinions) and most important, they are mass media-friendly, and as a result, they stick.  Which is now bad news for Bannon.  But at the same time nobody has forgotten Little Marco, Lyin’ Ted, Crooked Hillary or Pocahantas.  

And in the meanwhile, what’s the nickname Trump’s opponents have stuck on him?  Nada.

THE NARRATIVE LANDSCAPE

Think about it in terms of our media-driven society.  Media is narrative.  You can’t score media exposure without strong narrative content (meaning large amounts of agreement, contradiction and consequence).  It’s like an evolutionary “adaptive landscape” in which the element of fitness being selected for is narrative strength.  

This is why I think at the moment that Oprah is the only reasonable source of hope for a Democratic presidential candidate, and why the loss of Al Franken (a media-savvy veteran) was so devastating.  We now live in the media society that Niel Postman was predicting with his 1985 book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death.”  It will continue to select for those who know how to manipulate the media, and that, more than likely, means established media veterans. 

The world changes. 

#125) Oprah Gives an ABT Tour De Force

You want to see and hear narrative in its purest form?  I’ve been saying for a couple of years now, “narrative is leadership.”  Oprah just gave a textbook demonstration of this last night at the Golden Globes.  Here’s my analysis.  This is what leadership sounds like.

THE ABT AT WORK.  Oprah’s speech was a case study of how to deliver narrative structure.

 

THE 3 FORCES OF NARRATIVE

Narrative consists of 3 forces:  Agreement, Contradiction, Consequence.  The art of leadership is using them in the right measures, in the right places, and for the right durations.  The ability to do this comes from having narrative intuition.  Have a look at Oprah’s instant classic speech from last night at the Golden Globes.

Look at how she opens with A STORY that is full of SPECIFICS.  It’s a solid ABT (the And, But, Therefore narrative template) as she sets up her minor problem of not being able to find the words to articulate her experience.  You know who hit on this same problem of not being capable of conveying the enormity of an experience?  Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address when he said, “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here,”

They both hit on the point that “these events are much greater than anything I can convey.”

The entire speech is solid “problem-solution” dynamics.  No wallowing in accomplishments, no excessive congratulations, no silliness.

And look how it finishes — with the dream for “that new day” — completely reminiscent of Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech in which he outlined the journey we are on, proclaiming progress, but saying we’re not yet there — finishing by describing the dream for the future.

This was a landmark speech, Oprah has deep narrative intuition, and the leadership skills — at least in communication dynamics — that our system selects for.

OPRAH’S GOLDEN GLOBES SPEECH, COLOR CODED

To break it down I color code the three elements throughout the speech using BLUE (agreement), RED (contradiction) and GREEN (consequence).

Thank you, Reese. In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother’s house in Milwaukee watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for best actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope and said five words that literally made history:” The winner is Sidney Poitier.” Up to the stage came the most elegant man I ever remembered. His tie was white, his skin was black—and he was being celebrated. I’d never seen a black man being celebrated like that. I tried many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl, a kid watching from the cheap seats as my mom came through the door bone tired from cleaning other people’s houses. But all I can do is quote and say that the explanation is in Sidney‘s performance in Lilies of the Field: “Amen, amen, amen, amen.” 

In 1982, Sidney received the Cecil B. DeMille award right here at the Golden Globes and it is not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award. It is an honor—it is an honor and it is a privilege to share the evening with all of them and also with the incredible men and women who have inspired me, who challenged me, who sustained me and made my journey to this stage possible. Dennis Swanson who took a chance on me for A.M. Chicago. Saw me on the show and said to Steven Spielberg, she’s Sophia in ‘The Color Purple.’ Gayle who’s been a friend and Stedman who’s been my rock. 

I want to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. We know the press is under siege these days. We also know it’s the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice. To—to tyrants and victims, and secrets and lies. I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this: what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories. Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell, and this year we became the story. 

But it’s not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It’s one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics, or workplace. So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they’re in academia, engineering, medicine, and science. They’re part of the world of tech and politics and business. They’re our athletes in the Olympics and they’re our soldiers in the military. 

And there’s someone else, Recy Taylor, a name I know and I think you should know, too. In 1944, Recy Taylor was a young wife and mother walking home from a church service she’d attended in Abbeville, Alabama, when she was abducted by six armed white men, raped, and left blindfolded by the side of the road coming home from church. They threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone, but her story was reported to the NAACP where a young worker by the name of Rosa Parks became the lead investigator on her case and together they sought justice. But justice wasn’t an option in the era of Jim Crow. The men who tried to destroy her were never persecuted. Recy Taylor died ten days ago, just shy of her 98th birthday. She lived as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up.

Their time is up. And I just hope—I just hope that Recy Taylor died knowing that her truth, like the truth of so many other women who were tormented in those years, and even now tormented, goes marching on. It was somewhere in Rosa Parks’ heart almost 11 years later, when she made the decision to stay seated on that bus in Montgomery, and it’s here with every woman who chooses to say, “Me too.” And every man—every man who chooses to listen. 

In my career, what I’ve always tried my best to do, whether on television or through film, is to say something about how men and women really behave. To say how we experience shame, how we love and how we rage, how we fail, how we retreat, persevere, and how we overcome. I’ve interviewed and portrayed people who’ve withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights. So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again.”

#124) 2018: Year of the Story Circle

Happy New Year everyone! Lots of big things ahead for Story Circles with 3 Demo Days, the second edition of my first book, and our SXSW Interactive panel in March. It all starts next week at Texas A&M.

OBSERVERS WELCOME: Next week we’re running back to back Demo Days with Texas A&M faculty and USDA scientists. We always welcome a certain number of observers. If you’re interested, contact us.

OBSERVERS WELCOME: Next week we’re running back to back Demo Days with Texas A&M faculty and USDA scientists. We always welcome a certain number of observers. If you’re interested, contact us.

STORY CIRCLES CONTINUES TO GO WIDE

We’ve now run over 20 Demo Days and over 30 Story Circles with about half of them happening with USDA/ARS. For next week, we originally had one Demo Day scheduled but had such a large response we’ve added a second one. The total number of participants will be around 70. If you’d like to come observe just get in touch by emailing us: RandyOlsonProductions@gmail.com

This will be followed by Demo Days at the Western Sections Meeting of the Wildlife Society in February, our panel at South By Southwest Interactive in Austin in early March, then a Demo Day at University of Idaho in early April.

Also on the schedule will be the release in late March of the second edition of “Don’t Be Such A Scientist.” I’ll be starting a series of 10 blogposts here next week presenting much of the new content for the the book.

Stay tuned, it’s gonna be a big and exciting year!

SECOND EDITION, featuring 50 pages of new content including the new chapter, “Don’t Be Such A Poor Listener,” coming in late March.

SECOND EDITION, featuring 50 pages of new content including the new chapter, “Don’t Be Such A Poor Listener,” coming in late March.