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Why 'Speak American?'

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The Metaphor Project believes it's vital that we reach out to people beyond our own political circles today. Doing this successfully requires learning to 'speak American.' That means using the words, phrases, images, or metaphors that convey our own progressive values in a way more Americans can hear. This is exactly what Martin Luther King did when he capped his great speech on racial equality in 1963 with the phrase 'I have a dream . . .' He was referring to our shared American dream of a nation that fosters equality, opportunity, and justice. This is the ideal American vision expressed in the words of our Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

It's true that as a nation, we have not been able to fully realize our ideal national vision, and that we have often deeply violated it. Yet that positive vision has remained the source of social change activists' cutting-edge work and success throughout our history. Our own goal of a new and better society itself grows directly out of this American vision.

Using the words, phrases, images or metaphors that convey the best American values is the most effective way to create real common ground. This is a vital step to take at the beginning of our messages, the 'big idea' part, before we start explaining the specifics of our policy proposals. A good example of this today is the way that gay rights are now being reframed as civil rights. This is exactly the kind of thing I mean by the phrase 'speaking American.' - Link to the next section of this essay: Why It Works or Why 'Speak American?' (essay format).