Cicero or Demosthenes?

William Jennings Bryan writes about the responses a speaker inspires in his hearers. He contrasted the people's reactions to the Roman Cicero and to the Greek Demosthenes. In their ancient times both were considered capable leaders, orators, and statesmen. But there was an important distinction between the two. . .

IN THE book In His Image, William Jennings Bryan writes about the responses a speaker inspires in his hearers. He contrasted the people's reactions to the Roman Cicero and to the Greek Demosthenes. In their ancient times both were considered capable leaders, orators, and statesmen. But there was an important distinction between the two. Bryan expresses it this way, "When Cicero spake the people said, 'How well Cicero speaks.' When Demosthenes spake his hearers cried, 'Let us go against Phillip.' " Both apparently won that which they wanted most. Cicero won applause and attracted men to his own brilliance, but Demosthenes inspired men to action—to start fighting for his cause.

After twenty or more centuries we still have both types of leaders. The Cicero type are apparent everywhere. They constantly thrust themselves into the limelight. Their suggestions are always calculated to show that they are brilliant fellows. They have plenty of ideas—sparks of their own kindling—but do little really solid, practical work. Many followers are attracted by the glitter but they don't stay very long or achieve very much. However, with the Demosthenes-type leader it is a different picture. They are not pushing self for ward and are therefore not quite so obvious. They are motivated by a deep inner conviction and an earnest sense of duty. When they speak men are inspired to act. And their followers give of their lives be cause they have seen a "great cause" rather than merely a clever man.

During a safari visit to- a village in Uganda, Africa, I met a young lad with five mirrors on the handlebars of his fine, new bicycle. His bright smile seemed to match all the maradadi (Swahili for "shiny extras"). When I examined the mirrors I discovered that each was focused on the rider's face. Thus he could watch himself from all angles as he pedaled along in all his glory!

We chuckle at this lad's ego, but aren't we also attracting a little too much attention to self? Cicero-like we focus the mirrors of life on ourselves. We need a divine hand to tilt them back toward heaven and His great plan. Then our leadership will become less Cicero and more Demosthenes—as Teddy Roosevelt put it, "Less shouting, more shooting!"

What was it that moved the multitudes down to the Jordan to listen to John the Baptist? What was there about his preaching that brought a whole nation to repentance and made Satan rear for the very safety of his kingdom? Listen, "He sought not to attract men to himself, but to lift their thoughts higher and still higher, until they should rest upon the Lamb of God."— The Desire of Ages, p. 179.

"John was great in the sight of the Lord, when, before the messengers from the Sanhedrin, before the people, and before his own disciples, he refrained from seeking honor for himself, but pointed all to Jesus as the Promised One."—Ibid., p. 219.

What about your leadership and mine? Does it inspire our people and our fellow workers to think of how clever and able their leader is, or does it lift them higher, and still higher to the Lamb of God and His great cause for mankind? It depends on the tilt of the mirror. Shall we let Him refocus ours? Then like John (and Demosthenes) we will move hundreds forward in the mighty fight for heaven!

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May 1971

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