Thursday, April 21, 2016

                                                      The Engel Angle

     Eliot Engel entertains, inspires, motivates. A former UNC, North Carolina State and Duke University professor, Eliot Engel now spends his time lecturing all over the country enlightening his audiences about historical and literary figures about whom we know something, but not a lot. Once you have heard this articulate orator, you will be hooked. 

     Several years ago, I heard Eliot Engel speak for the first time at UNCW’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. I sat down at the dinner table at 5:45 p.m. and watched this humble genius emerge from behind a curtain at exactly 6:00 p.m., not a minute sooner. Mr. Engel chooses not to eat before he speaks or even to show his face one second before. I assume he is behind the scenes focusing on his presentation which always promises extended applause and gasps of “How does he do this time after time?” He has spoken to the UNCW Osher audience over 40 times. As an aspiring public speaker, I was and am in awe of this man’s intellect, creative talent and eloquent rhetoric. 

     I have never asked him about his process, but I am guessing he chooses a figure whom he admires or who is well-known, and his research focuses on the unusual, unknown facets of that person’s personality, family and or career. He takes this information and creatively weaves it into a one-hour story that promises to inspire laughter and surprise, sometimes shock. Eliot Engel is a master storyteller whose pace, choice of words and layered wisdom leaves his listeners spellbound, hungering for more.

     A couple of years ago, I was given the honor of introducing him to the 250 guests he draws every semester. How do you introduce someone whom you admire so much? I decided the best way to do this was to copy what I assumed was his technique. I researched his topic, tried to come up with some fact that he may have missed or chosen not to discuss and then creatively attempt to put it into context while flattering the man who ultimately has inspired me to find my own enlightening path. 

     On May 3, 2016, at 6:00 p.m. sharp, Eliot Engel will discuss Frank Lloyd Wright. I have read much about this fascinating character, but I can’t wait to hear how Professor Engel will give us a perspective we would never imagine. My challenge is to come up with an introduction that does justice to both while whetting the appetites of his listeners. 

     Eliot Engel has motivated me to pursue my dream of performing a one-woman show. He showed me the value of good creative research, articulate prose, unforgettable storytelling and a sincere enjoyment of watching his audience hang on his every word. Thank you, Eliot Engel, for continuing to entertain and enlighten us, and for helping me find purpose. If you ever have an opportunity to hear this man, buy your tickets immediately and be sure to get a front row seat. He will always sell out.