Ways to Improve Public Speaking: Use Repetition: A Lesson from General Douglas MacArthur

Updated: Mar 1

It’s unfortunate, but audiences will remember very little of what you say. To combat this, you must find a theme and repeat it throughout. Older speeches can serve as a guide for ways to improve public speaking. Your theme does not have to be much more than a single phrase or sentence; it could even be as small as three words as General Douglas MacArthur uses in his speech: Duty, Honor, Country. His key move with “Duty, Honor, Country,” is to use the phrase as punctuation; he often ends importance sections and sentences with those three words.

Ways to Improve Public Speaking: Repetition

Throughout his speech, he uses the phrase “Duty, Honor, Country,” 7 times.  Take each sentence below and say it out loud and see how the repetition of theme not only drives home his point but it also adds a particular rhythm to the speech.

Duty, Honor, Country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be.
Always, for them: Duty, Honor, Country; always their blood and sweat and tears, as we sought the way and the light and the truth.
Always through the bloody haze of their last reverberating shot, the vision of gaunt, ghastly men reverently following your password of: Duty, Honor, Country.
Yours is the profession of arms,  the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory; that if you lose, the nation will be destroyed; that the very obsession of your public service must be: Duty, Honor, Country.
Your guidepost stands out like a ten-fold beacon in the night: Duty, Honor, Country.
Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country.
Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country.

For your next speech, once you craft your theme, challenge yourself to end or begin important parts with it. Your audience will go home with your theme and your message firmly in their minds.

The full video and text of the speech can be found here: American Rhetoric

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

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