A Catch in the Throat

Watching Kamala Harris’ victory speech from my settee on the other side of the Atlantic, I felt emotion rise in my chest to the extent that for a few moments I couldn’t speak.

And yet this is a woman I know very little about. I am not an American and while I care about the presidential election, it is not central to my life.

The Power of Emotion

It was the emotion of the speech that caught me.  The crafted emotional narrative of significant victory after a long struggle. And yet there was no over claiming and a real sense of humility.

I am sure there are women leaders before who have chosen not to hide their emotions and instead use them to pull people in behind them, but I can’t immediately name them.

The sort of women leaders I have been watching for the last thirty years are those who chose to hide emotion; to look totally professional. They projected reason or logic and strove not to give ammunition to people who think leaders don’t cry, don’t emote. I am thinking of Margaret Thatcher, the original iron lady, Theresa May, Angela Merkel.

How refreshing and how right for the moment to hear a woman speak with warmth and emotion. In this case sheer joy.

Scientists Jump for Joy

There was another unusual display of emotion this week. From the Chief Scientist at Pfizer talking about the success of COVID vaccine trials.


It was a short clip (which can be seen in this video at 1’ 38”) but the emotion was authentic and unusual. As many of you know, persuading scientists and policymakers to share stories or anecdotes, let alone emotion, can be an uphill talk. But here we have a scientist talking about jumping for joy.

Having said I could not think of another female leader prepared to share emotion … there is another.   New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has shown us several times she is prepared to share emotion, good and bad, in her public speeches.

Her victory speech at winning her 2020 General Election was full of joy and can be found here, but she is also famous for sharing sorrow. I find this clip the most astonishing. Not a speech this time but still an act of humanity and leadership.


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1 reply
  1. Laura Raun
    Laura Raun says:

    While Harris clearly spoke with warmth and emotion, other American women are even better at using their feelings to advance their message. Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey come to mind. I think Harris’ speech needed a stronger narrative, especially on reconciliation, because Americans have had too much emotion over the past four years – in Donald Trump.


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