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The “art” of pro-life persuasion conveyed with humor, insight, and a bevy of practical applications

by | Jul 16, 2015

By Dr. Jean Garton

dr-garton-2015“Same song; second verse.”  Only in this case, the second verse outshone the first.

I am referring to one of the workshops at the 2015 Convention of the National Right to Life Committee in which I took part. It was titled “The Art of Pro-Life Persuasion: One Size Doesn’t Fit All.” The  same threesome who comprised the presenters at the 2014 workshop came back for a curtain call in New Orleans.

The workshop was moderated by Dave Andrusko, editor of National Right to Life News, who introduced the first presenter: the energetic, funny, challenging, and knowledgeable Lori Kehoe.  Lori shared from her wealth of experiences as a lobbyist for legislation related to the Life Issues and to the First Amendment, for both New York State Right to Life and for National Right to Life.

Legislators are her “audience” so her “persuasion” is usually more of a one-on-one conversation than a speech. It requires a lot of preparation in order to understand the particular bill she is urging a member of the New York legislature or Congress to support. To be successful, it also requires genuine, sincere, and sensitive people skills.

lori-kehoe-2015   Lori provided examples of how she communicated the urgency of a piece of legislation, how she deflected anti-pro-life argumentation, and how she treated any hostile legislators with patience and respect and humor.  Lori could be the poster child for what it means to be pro-life. Not surprisingly, she was a magnet for teenagers who attended the Convention.

Everything about Lori says: Pro-lifers are people who love, cherish and enjoy life. She is the kind of smiling, happy, positive person we all like to be around and that, in itself, is powerfully persuasive. Now THAT is pro-life persuasion.

Dave (my fellow Lutheran) introduced me next. I am a great-grandmother of seven, proudly white haired, a pro-life advocate for 45 years with enough Frequent Flier Miles to go to the moon and back. The contrast to the vivacious, vibrant Lori prompted me to tease her about the need to recognize that the ears of senior citizens listen more slowly than today’s young people talk.

I explained that the people I try to persuade come in bunches–audiences of people from organizations, churches, community agencies, and the like. In order to determine what “size” fits a particular gathering (that is, how I tailor my talk), I explained that I consider the following characteristics: Location, Education, Age, Current News Events and, finally, my  own past experience and instinct.

rai-rojas-2015   I used an example of something that went viral a few months ago to illustrate one way to “see” what the debate about abortion is about. It was the “controversy” over whether a dress had blue and black stripes or white and gold stripes. The Internet debate drew 40 million responses.  The controversy continued until researchers located the creator of the dress who said that the stripes were blue and black.

The abortion issue is not unlike that. Millions of people look at the same thing–a vibrant, living, and defenseless unborn child–but see something completely different. However, when we check with the Creator of Life, that settles the question of the humanity of the unborn child.

Dave then introduced the final member of the presenting trio– Rai Rojas, Director of Latino Outreach for NRLC which he also often represents at the United Nations. He travels the world to speak on how life issues affect the Latino Community which (as Rai always reminds us) is a naturally pro-life constituency.

With his trademark humor and wit, Rai talked about the surreal world of the United Nations where up is down, black is white, and respect for life is another word for female oppression. Rai illustrated how we reach people with a series of hilarious examples that conveyed a serious truth: know your audience, know your subject, and know your strengths and weaknesses.

The workshop was a huge success, but only a small part of a convention that was so very well run and so very well received. When people left the 45th annual NRLC convention, they should remember that we do for free what we wouldn’t do for money, we do for love what we wouldn’t do for power, and we do for others what we wouldn’t do for ourselves.

We will continue to march in the January cold and “take the heat’ from the opposition. We will continue to pray and proclaim the truth until that day when our country is once again “One nation, under God with liberty and justice for all” … not just for almost all!

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