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Letter to the editor

Retired judge knows power of words

February 02, 2011 - Dear Editor,

Immediately after the shootings in Tucson, Ariz., there was a great deal of discussion as to whether inflammatory language and references to gunplay caused the shootings.

There have been references to "reload," "Second Amendment rights," i.e., right to bear arms, "crosshairs," and "bulls-eyes."

Was there a causal connection between speech and action? If you don't think there is such a causal connection, go into any locker room at half-time and listen to the coach's half-time talk. It is too late to give the players instruction on how to play the game. This is the occasion for the coach to "fire up" his players, make last minute adjustments, not to instruct but to encourage, to jack them up. The coach wants to elevate his players to a new level of intensity. The coach wants action as a result of his words.

Out of the hundreds of examples of speech causing someone to act come to mind President Kennedy's inaugural remark of "Ask not what your country can do for you"; Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech; and President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address written on the train between Washington and Gettysburg.

We are STILL responding and being moved by these words. The pen is STILL "mightier than the sword."

Gerald E. McNally


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