All the big guns advertised on billboards and newspaper ads showed up: Laura Bush, Colin Powell, Lou Holtz, Terry Bradshaw, and Rudy Giuliani plus Leigh Anne Touhy of “The Blind Side,” John Walsh of “America’s Most Wanted,” a ranting religious financial adviser named James Smith, former presidential candidate Steve Forbes, and a linguistic gymnast named Krish Dhanam who may have been the best of the lot.
They spoke from a platform the size of a boxing ring in the center of the floor. Each one talked for a half an hour or so and was greeted with a burst of smoke and sparks at the corners of the stage. At the end of the day, the overall effect was like eating too much at a buffet.
“Have fun with what you’re doing,” suggested Holtz, the former football coach at Arkansas and Notre Dame.
Okey doke. Can you match the motivator with their signature line or story? (If you can you should consider becoming a professional speaker.)
“The dollar should be as good as gold,” says (a) Colin Powell (b) Steve Forbes (c) Lou Holtz (d) Rudy Giuliani.
A “turn around” became a life lesson for (a) Laura Bush (b) Leigh Anne Touhy (c) Terry Bradshaw (d) Steve Forbes.
This speaker’s spouse calls the ranch “the promised land.” (a) Leigh Anne Touhy (b) Laura Bush (c) Steve Forbes (d) Terry Bradshaw.
WIN equals “what’s important now” is a favorite of (a) Colin Powell (b) Lou Holtz (c) Steve Forbes (d) Laura Bush.
A patriotic hot dog vendor refused payment and taught a lesson to (a) Rudy Giuliani (b) Colin Powell (c) Steve Forbes (d) Laura Bush.
Always be ready for “something frantic, terrible, and awful” says (a) Steve Forbes (b) Rudy Giuliani (c) Terry Bradshaw (d) Colin Powell.
“If you want to get motivated, take Metamucil,” says wise guy (a) Steve Forbes (b) Terry Bradshaw (c) Lou Holtz (d) Laura Bush.
“When you hear the word spending or stimulus, ask where the money comes from,” says (a) Steve Forbes (b) Steve Forbes (c) Steve Forbes (d) Steve Forbes.
Which speaker has clinical depression and does a dead-on Elvis impression? (a) Steve Forbes (b) Terry Bradshaw (c) Laura Bush (d) Colin Powell.
“Tom Brady is really handsome. If I ever cross over that line one time, Tom Brady is my guy,” says (a) Steve Forbes (b) Terry Bradshaw (c) Colin Powell (d) Leigh Anne Touhy.
The only speaker to use a manuscript was (a) Steve Forbes (b) Laura Bush (c) Colin Powell (d) Lou Holtz.
At the airport check-in this speaker was “stripped, a dog smelled me, and a guy was wanding me like you wouldn’t believe.” (a) Laura Bush (b) Colin Powell (c) Terry Bradshaw (d) Steve Forbes.
The answer to each question is (b). Unless you are James Smith in which case anything goes. Smith, as he joked several times, was not on the program and apparently wandered over from Comedy Central.
“Close the book,” he told people searching through the $4.50 program. “If you need that you’re too dumb to learn anything.” He pantomined snorting cocaine. He made fun of people who watch “Dancing with the Dorks” on television, people in the audience who looked “pissed off” at him, sports fans who wear jerseys with a jock’s name on the back, and offered this nugget: “Guys, when you shave that skanky face of yours in the morning, you need to say, ‘Dude, you’re gonna rock the world today.’”
And, oh yes, you should invest in tax deeds and liens to make 17 percent a year.
For comedy, I gave the medal to Bradshaw, who is funnier in person than he is on television. For sheer speaking brilliance, Forbes is damn good and so are Holtz and Dhanam, who can do it all. The two financial guys apparently helped underwrite the event because they pitched products from the stage and in the concourse. Otherwise there was no hard sell.
I had a hard time buying Powell, the general and former secretary of state, as a regular guy, much as he tried. Laura Bush seems like a genuinely sweet, smart, and strong person, completely comfortable in her own skin. Leigh Anne Touhy was the hometown favorite and is, if anything, even more glamorous than Sandra Bullock who played her in the hit movie. She worked the theme “get off Poplar Avenue and see what’s out there and get out of your comfort zone.” But she hit one off note.
Attempting to explain the bond between her and her adopted African-American “son” Michael Oher, she said the giant professional football player went into a Taco Bell in Memphis and told the kid behind the counter to “put it on the manager’s card, my dad’s the owner.” The kid said “sure, and I’m the king of England,” and Big Mike called his “dad” and told him to fire the kid.
This struck me as unfunny and wrong on every level, especially when speaker after speaker emphasized kindness to the less fortunate. Why didn’t Mike just fork over $10 cash like everyone else? If Peyton Manning or Jay Cutler did this they’d be crucified on SportsCenter. And if asking “Dad” to fire a kid making $6.50 an hour shows familial bonding in any way, I’ll take vanilla. Pro athletes should have manners. And pro speakers need editors.