Written by Roy Black
Paul Harvey died in 2009, but despite that infirmity, he won the last Superbowl. Well not exactly, but he had the best commercial. Chrysler used his speech about American farmers given in 1978 as the soundtrack for a Dodge Ram commercial. This dramatic moving speech was a perfect prose-poem.
But the part I am interested in is Harvey’s dramatic delivery of this poetic gem. He used a staccato rhythm with long pauses for effect. In my last post on business books I pointed out that Churchill and Reagan believed in using the power of the pause for dramatic effect. Just listen to Paul Harvey in this commercial and you will find the finest example of it.
Here is how Harvey would start his daily radio news broadcasts: Hello Americans! [pause] This is Paul Harvey! [pause] Stand by [long pause] for news!” If you have ever listened to him you can hear him in that last sentence.
I also bet that Harvey wrote out the text of his speech like Churchill did in a sort of meterless, rhymeless poem. It makes it easier to read and signals him where to pause. Perhaps like Churchill (and Shakespeare) he even wrote in the staging directions.
The commercial enhanced the power of his rhetoric with stark photographs of farmers at work. Chrysler commissioned ten noted photographers to create the scenes. This is an example of images and slides supplementing a speech not overwhelming it. The photographs were timed to Harvey’s phrases and added to their impact. The perfect example of how a final argument should work.
Harvey was similar to us trial lawyers in another way. He wrote and delivered his sponsors’ advertisements himself, selling them with the same sincerity as his folksy world-view. “I am fiercely loyal to those willing to put their money where my mouth is.”
Here is the text of his speech. Notice how effectively he uses the refrain “So God made a farmer”:
And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer.
God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the field, milk cows again, eat supper, then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the township board.” So God made a farmer.
“I need somebody with arms strong enough to wrestle a calf and yet gentle enough to cradle his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait for lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies, then tell the ladies to be sure to come back real soon and mean it.” So God made a farmer.
God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt and watch it die, then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year,’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from an ash tree, shoe a horse, who can fix a harness with hay wire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. Who, during planting time and harvest season will finish his 40-hour week by Tuesday noon and then, paining from tractor back, up in another 72 hours.” So God made a farmer.
God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place. So God made a farmer.
God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bales, yet gentle enough to help a newborn calf begin to suckle and tend the pink-comb pullets, who will stop his mower in an instant to avoid the nest of meadowlarks.”
It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed, brake, disk, plow, plant, strain the milk, replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with an eight mile drive to church. Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft, strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh, and then sigh and then reply with smiling eyes when his family says that they are proud of what Dad does. “So God made a farmer.”