Monday, June 2, 2008

The Argus Observes: Dick Neuberger’s gift with language

From The Argus-Observer for June 3 1954

(Editor’s note: My father, who was what today we would call a political junkie, is a model for one of the characters in my novel, Farewell Bend. Here are portions of a column he wrote about a politician he rarely agreed with but clearly admired. That was Dick Neuberger, who in June 1954 was about to be elected U.S. Senator from Oregon.)

I heard Idaho’s Sen. William E. Borah when he stood on the steps of the capitol building in Boise in 1936 and made an oft-quoted introduction of President Roosevelt.

Borah said he was always a little uncomfortable when Roosevelt addressed Congress because the president could “make an algebraic equation sound simple.”

Listening to Dick Neuberger address an enthusiastic crowd of Democrats at the Boulevard Grange Hall last night reminded me of Borah’s classic compliment to an opponent.

Neuberger has some of the extreme public speaking talent that was the most important single factor in making Roosevelt the best practical politician in American history.

Johnny Caldwell and I went out to case the opposition last night and, just for fun, to see if Neuberger was as fast on his feet as Sen. Wayne Morse. Our opinion: he is even more effective before an audience.

And Morse is considered one of the best extemporaneous speakers in the nation’s capitol today. Although he uses rather complicated sentences, his command of English is remarkable. He can make a long speech without an obvious grammatical error.

To my mind, Neuberger’s use of the language is considerably more effective than Morse’s. Neuberger’s phrasing is much clearer, easier for the listener to follow, and his points are more simply and forcefully made. He is able to put more color, more graphic description, more humor into his presentation than Morse does.…

I had only a minute to speak to Neuberger last night. In that minute, I asked him if what I had heard about his writing was true.

This is what I had heard from Margaret Sinclair, former newswoman now an English professor at the College of Idaho. She had watched Neuberger working from rough notes type rapidly for several sheets of copy, quickly scan his notes and then without putting a pencil on the copy drop it into an envelope and mail it to a magazine publisher. All this in the last hour before he got up to make a major speech on a different subject and to a large audience.

Neuberger told me that was an exaggeration, but he didn’t outright deny it and I’m sure it’s approximately correct.

That takes some brain power.

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