"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears..." begins Mark Antony's speech at Julius Caesar's funeral, where Antony turns a eulogy into a call to arms in the classic Shakespeare play.
It demonstrates the power a gifted orator has to whip up the emotion of a crowd and direct that emotion into action.
In the era of Twitter and sound bites, the 45-minute speech may seem like a relic but there's still some kick in that old horse yet, as Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama showed this week during their primetime addresses at the Democratic National Convention.
The Republicans haven't had a leader with magical oratory skill since Ronald Reagan and that was plainly obvious last week, when the Republicans leaders put on their best face at their national convention.
The cheering delegates for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were reacting to what their candidates said, in stark contrast to Clinton and the two Obamas, who drew far more emotional cheers from their audiences for what they said and how they said it.
It's not that Romney and Ryan aren't intelligent, engaging men who care deeply about their country but they simply lack the charisma, the charm and the oratory skill of Reagan, the Great Communicator.
Meanwhile, the Democrats are currently blessed with great speakers.
Michelle Obama was accused of imitating her husband's speaking style in some quarters but how could she not sound like the best public speaker in America when she's married to him? She's a smart, well-educated woman in her own right and she's heard the hubby's stump speech as much as anyone. Why make up your own style when his clearly works so well?
Clinton's speech Wednesday was a reminder of what got him elected to two terms, despite "I did not have sex with that woman...Miss Lewinsky" and all of his other nonsense. He used humor, seriousness, repetition, structure, tone and rhythm impeccably to support a simple central theme of a choice for America between going backward (Romney) and going forward (Obama).
He told some fibs but it's Clinton, after all. He accused the Republicans of supporting the kind of financial deregulation that led to the global crisis of 2008 and the ongoing turmoil in Europe. The Glass-Steagall Act was created during the Depression to stop American banks from getting "too big to fail." Clinton -- not Reagan, not Bush senior or junior -- was the one to repeal it, calling it "no longer relevant."
And then there's Barack Obama.
Ari Fleischer, President George W. Bush's press secretary, was on CNN afterwards complaining that it was typical Obama - high on oratory and hope, low on reality and specifics.
Nobody on the panel called out Fleischer for stating the obvious but vintage Obama, with reheated themes touching on his usual rallying points, is still better speech-wise than anything the Republicans can muster.
Obama's speech started somber and low, with a snappy joke midway to lighten the mood, before slowly building into a soaring call for all Americans to harken back to a day when "citizenship" meant succeeding -- and failing -- together as a nation, when caring for your country and your neighbour was not an abstract concept but took shape in real action.
There were two startling moments in his speech.
First, the shockingly sincere humility he portrayed, courageously admitting he has not been anywhere near perfect as president and quoting Lincoln that "I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go."
And then the role reversal. While Romney didn't even mention war or the American soldiers in Afghanistan last week, Obama seemed to tear up for a moment when he talked about the awesome responsibility of being the Commander-In-Chief and ordering fellow Americans into harm's way.
Historically, the Democrats talked about the economy and nothing else while the Republicans raved about America's place in the world and the incredible work of men and women in uniform.
Instead, it was Obama, not Romney, who declared that "as long as I'm Commander-In-Chief, the United States will have the most powerful military the world has ever known."
Americans certainly have a choice to make Nov. 6 but when it comes to who's got that precious gift of Mark Antony's, there's no contest.
-- Managing editor Neil Godbout