Undoubtedly a man can learn to be a fair talker. He can by practice learn to present his ideas consecutively, clearly and in what you may call “form,” but there is as much difference between this and an oration as there is between a skeleton and a living human being clad in sensitive, throbbing flesh.
There are millions of skeleton makers, millions of people who can express what may be called “the bones” of a discourse, but not one in a million who can clothe these bones.
You can no more teach a man to be an orator than you can teach him to be an artist or a poet of the first class. When you teach him, there is the same difference between the man who is taught, and the man who is what he is by virtue of a natural aptitude, that there is between a pump and a spring – between a canal and a river – between April rain and water-works. It is a question of capacity and feeling – not of education.
If an orator wants to know something, if he wishes to feel something, let him read Shakespeare. Let him listen to the music of Wagner, of Beethoven, or Schubert. If he wishes to express himself in the highest and most perfect form, let him become familiar with the great paintings of the world – with the great statues – all these will lend grace, will give movement and passion and rhythm to his words. A great orator puts into his speech the perfume, the feelings, the intensity of all the great and beautiful and marvelous things that he has seen and heard and felt. An orator must be a poet, a metaphysician, a logician – and above all, must have sympathy with all.