Zack Wahls was 19 when he came to the Iowa legislature to testify.
Now he’s 26 and a likely state senator after winning the primary last night.
It’s worth rewatching his speech and why it went so viral. Take a look, then we’ll take it apart.
A few thoughts:
He obviously practiced this speech a good amount, enough so he didn’t need to refer to his notes except for a couple of times early on.
There were a few spots where he stumbled, but those were also early. That’s an important point. If you make a few mistakes early, the audience often hopes you finish better. They root for you. And if you deliver on that, and don’t just smooth things out but finish quite strongly–like Zack did–that contrast between the beginning and end makes the speech stronger. It feels less slick.
In this speech, delivery mattered far less than the structure and emotion. As a speaker, you want to feel and express what you want your audience to feel. It would be easy and natural for him to show up angry, given the proposal he was testifying against. Anger wouldn’t be persuasive. That kind of speech wouldn’t have been effective or gone viral.
So: this speech isn’t memorable for impeccable delivery or for having beautiful phrasing, line by line.
It’s great because unless they removed your heart and replaced it with stone, you feel proud of this young man and the obvious love he has for his moms and sister.