NOTE: This post was originally written in 2011, when Texas governor and presidential hopeful Rick Perry forgot the name of a federal agency he planned to eliminate. In December of 2016, Perry was nominated by President-Elect Donald Trump to head that agency, the Department of Energy. You can’t make this stuff up!
We all forget things.
And even though I agree with NY Times’s Andrew Rosenthal, who wrote, “[Killing government agencies] is one of the older and more tedious plays in the G.O.P. book and you’d think any Republican who has the “small government” merit badge would have long ago memorized it,” it’s also true that you don’t have to be a senior to have a so-called senior moment.
What To Do If It Happens to You
The main thing to know about public speaking gaffes is that only your reaction matters. If you discipline yourself to brush off your mistake as a normal and inevitable occurrence, you’ll save yourself a world of hurt later on. Others may choose to drag out the episode — but you shouldn’t be the one to do it!
Of course, this was a bad mistake — but if Perry had said, “I’ll get back to you on that third thing later, but for now, let me also say that [change of topic]” — it would have been a much smaller story.
Instead, Perry turned to Ron Paul as if asking for help (which Paul obligingly provided). Then he fumbled for a long, painful moment instead of taking things in stride and re-directing his audience’s attention to something that he was prepared to talk about (if such a thing exists).
Three Tips for When Your Mind Trips
So my advice for what will henceforth be known as a Rick Perry moment is to,
- Admit you forgot, and smile it off without embarrassment (everyone makes mistakes, after all)
- Do not try to recover your memory in full public view; it won’t work
- Move forward to your next point or topic, and put what just happened out of your mind
And, oh yeah, one more thing:
You might not want to skip going on Late Night with David Letterman to talk about it.