Stealing the limelight

by Jack Gayer. 0 Comments

What better way to promote your cause than to interrupt some of the most important and powerful people in the world. Recently Michelle Obama was heckled at a DNC fundraiser by a protestor demanding equal rights for the LGBT crowd. Was her voice heard? Unmistakably so. Was the cause heard? Not so much. That Michelle Obama is married to one of the most important men in the country, the comparisons are inevitable. Not long ago president Obama was repeatedly interrupted while delivering a speech about Guantanamo. With his characteristic cool, Obama politely attempted to deflect the loud-mouth, addressing the woman's rudeness with thank yous and "please let me finish...if you'd let me finish I'll get to that." Where are the Taser happy security guards when you need them?

Back in 2009 Obama was also heckled at a health care rally. He attempted to ameliorate the situation by saying "relax...we're all right". Throughout the video available on YouTube, a long haired man is seen to be standing up and delivering some sort of diatribe unheard by us. We don't know what this person is saying, and frankly we don't care.

Its not gutsy to butt in while someone else is talking, its incredibly rude, and only serves as a detriment to your issue of the day. How do you think the audience is going to react? Are they going to think your issue is the most important issue facing America at this present moment or that we’re all secretly here to listen to your garbled shouting while someone who has been laboring over a speech that will be seen by millions is just blathering on with all our glazed-over-eyes on them. Now is your time to throw them off their mark and stand up for what you believe, now may be your only chance to simultaneously look like an inconsiderate jerk and put the speaker in an awkward position. Screech now or forever hold your peace!

The audience applauded Michelle Obama's take-no-prisoners approach to the heckler but the media was less than kind. Numerous news sites claimed it was bad tact, that she should expect these things, or that she was condescending in her reproach. It must be difficult to criticize someone for their approach to being heckled, when you're constantly being shouted at how lousy your article is while you type it. Oh wait, that doesn't happen.

Get off your high horses. Obama reacted splendidly. Everyone knows how they would have reacted in a given situation because they have had time to ponder it and formulate a well-informed decision. Its easy to claim that soldiers who flee from battle instead of fighting are pathetic when you've never had a gun pointed at you. Real-time decisions are not flush with introspection, you need to make a choice and you don't have an abundance of time to make one.

Was Michelle Obama's attitude towards being heckled all that different from her husband's? Yes, it was much more aggressive and direct. In a word, it was perfect. She admitted her limitations then offered the woman a chance to actually speak to the audience instead of bleating at them. With the tables turned, the woman chose silence. In a later interview the bad apple of the night claimed Obama tried to intimidate her and that it didn't work, that her cause is in important one and she couldn't sit idly by any longer while blah blah blah. Clearly she was intimidated because she declined to speak to the audience when given the opportunity. This is why she should have stayed in her seat and kept her mouth firmly closed.

Yes, it was a different approach then her husband, but this only serves to emphasize how they're different people. Michelle Obama’s not an Anne Romney or Laura Bush who don't seem to have a voice of their own. She advocates for her causes, like childhood obesity with tenacity. If she wants to tell an audience member to go [expletive] themselves if they interrupt, more power to her. What she's saying is important not because of who she’s married to, but because of who she is, a well-accomplished individual in her own right. Even if she's only trying to raise money, bellowing at her from the safety of your anonymity and the protection of your righteousness is inexcusable.

Public speaking has been rated as a greater fear to Americans than dying. As Jerry Seinfeld put it, "to the average person, you'd be better in the casket than doing the eulogy." So if you think you're sitting on an earth-shattering revelation or you're the voice of a generation of the overlooked, organize a march, hold a demonstration, actually do something rather than horning in on someone else’s attention. After all, if you were so important you'd be the one behind the mic.


Jack Gayer writes a regular column for

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