It’s Sunday evening, and my head is still spinning after spending three amazing days at Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Chicago last week. Nearly 1,500 of us gathered to learn more about the Climate Reality Project and its current and upcoming programs. The highlight of the training, without a doubt, was seeing Climate Reality founder and chairman Al Gore’s updated slide presentation from the movie “An Inconvenient Truth” delivered by the former vice president himself.
This was the second day of the training, and there was no question that the entire ballroom was anxious to hear Gore not just present the slide show that represents his own personal commitment to solving the climate crisis, but to hear him break it down, section by section. But first he took the stage to give an introduction to the training he was about to give. This was the former vice president. This was the polish and formal tone you expect when you go to hear someone of that office speak. It was inspiring. It was professional.
And then he dug in and delivered that slide show we were waiting to see. The jacket came off, and for that amazing session, the former vice president was just a guy. Just a guy on a stage, passionately conveying the facts, figures, consequences and solutions to a shared problem facing humanity. The vice presidential exterior fell away. That persona was traded for a familiar tone. This was “AG” (as the Climate Reality staffers call him), someone you could sit across the kitchen table from, talking late into the night about what’s really wrong and how we have the power to make it right again. This is not to say that he was not professional; he was real.
After a complete run-through, he returned to the stage ready to break down the structure and explain why he did what he did in the slide show. For me, the ballroom felt like an enormous lecture hall on a university campus. It was as if we were all mid-semester, in a class taught by a popular professor whose class was on the must-take list of the entire student body.
He told the story about how climate change rose through the ranks of his personal priority list. He shared anecdotes about elected officials reacting to climate change. He talked about the politics surrounding the issue. He talked about economics. Science. At one point he gave a mini-lecture on greenhouse gases in response to an audience question. After the long, detailed answer, he turned to the two climate scientists he had on hand to ensure the science was accurate and asked if he got it all right. Of course he did.
And you know what? The former vice president has his own “weatherman voice.” It means exactly what you think. It’s Gore’s network television alter ego telling us about a storm that just seems to be stuck on the weather map. Priceless.
“Before I had the slides I would draw a line across the stage and just do hand gestures,” Gore told us. The presentation has evolved into a tech-savvy and professional event, but that comment left me wishing I had been there for the good old days at the very beginning, too.
This ability to connect with an audience is a tremendous asset. It is a valuable skill that in no way compromises the image of a former vice president or causes him to command less respect. Quite the opposite. He’s passionate and knowledgeable about his subject. At one point his excitement began to crescendo, and he spoke louder and faster.
“You know what the story is,” he said. “I’m getting wound up here. Sorry.”
Whether you view it as theater or as an impassioned climate advocate just getting down to brass tacks, it works. I feel extremely fortunate to have been there to see both the formal introduction and the familiar presentation.
Now it’s our turn to take that slide show and all of those ins and outs behind it and meld it with our personal stories about why we are each moved to talk to the world about the science and solutions surrounding climate change. We’re venturing out into our communities with solid, current scientific information and our own unique passion.