Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who notoriously failed to remember which federal agency he would eliminate at the Republican presidential debate Wednesday, could learn a few things from memory expert Joshua Foer, a winner of the USA National Memorization Championship who recently spent a year studying ancient methods of memorization.
In his book, Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, Foer describes techniques that people have used for thousands of years to remember all kinds of things, including speeches that last for hours and entire books. As Foer explains, one trick to memorization is to associate the words with things that are so strange and exaggerated that you'll never forget them.
Here's Foer's free advice to Perry:
Ricky Perry should have studied Cicero's De Oratore!
If it had been Cicero up there on stage, part of his debate prep would have involved creating an image in his mind's eye of the three departments he wanted to cut: maybe his favorite elementary school teacher standing behind a lemonade stand handing out wads of cash, while shooting lightning bolts out of her armpits. That wacky image would have reminded him he wants to cut education, commerce, and energy.
Writes Cicero: "Nor yet is anybody so dull-witted that habitual practice in this will not give him some assistance."
I know of at least one US senator who still uses the Ciceronian techniques to deliver speeches from memory. I'm surprised more politicians don't practice this sort of thing. I would think it would be hugely valuable in their line of work.
A note to Perry's close friends: Moonwalking with Einstein would make a great early Christmas present.
You can watch the video of Perry's gaffe after the jump:
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