THOSE who attend the President's Breakfast on Thursday morning will be in for a treat, if for no other reason than they get to hear The Voice.
James Earl Jones has a deep, resonant voice. It is so deep and so resonant that some audiophiles will not purchase speakers for their home-entertainment system until they insert a DVD of “The Hunt for Red October” and hear how the sub-woofers handle his basso profundo. His voice tells us we're watching Ted Turner's global creation: “This is CNN.” It is Darth Vader saying, “Luke, I am your father.” It is King Mufasa in “The Lion King.”
But of course, when you schedule Jones for a speaking engagement, you get so much more.
You get eloquence. Speaking at a university commencement, Jones once described children as “messengers we send to a time and place that we will never see.”
You get perspective. Speaking at “A Prayer for America” at Yankee Stadium — the first major memorial service following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — Jones said, “Our nation is a symbol of liberty, equality, opportunity, and democracy. This attack was an attempt to undermine these four pillars of civic faith. It has failed. Our spirit is stronger than ever.”
Jones' appearance at the President's Breakfast, scheduled for 7:30 am, undoubtedly will include reference to one of the most amazing aspects of his amazing life: He is a stutterer.
His stuttering apparently was triggered by the trauma he experienced when his grandparents decided to take him from his mother and move from Mississippi to Michigan. The already-shy Jones, embarrassed by the impediment, shut down. He was unable to talk at all from age 8 to 15. In high school, his English teacher discovered that he loved to write poetry, and she encouraged him to recite a poem aloud to the class each day. He went on to become the school's champion public speaker. It was a huge confidence boost for Jones.
And now he is The Voice.
“I have no arrogance about my voice,” he once said. “People say, ‘Oh, that voice.’ But that's not the way I look at it. I'm just happy the words come out clearly. And I'm not only happy, I'm proud of it.”
Jones, 70, has played major roles in movies, television series, and Broadway shows. In addition to “Star Wars,” “The Lion King,” and “The Hunt for Red October,” his movie credits include “Clear and Present Danger,” “Patriot Games,” and “Field of Dreams.” His stage performance in “Fences” landed him a Tony Award and his role on the television drama “Gabriel's Fire” earned him an Emmy Award.
“I'm pleased James Earl Jones accepted our invitation to speak at the NTEA Convention,” committee chairman Kent Grist says. “He has a very inspiring message and is an amazing talent.”