Dear speech-fans and -friends,
On the eve of a new five-year term for the European Parliament, European Commission, and other major positions in Europe, here’s our monthly selection of the best quotes and speeches for inspiration.
In these important times for the European project, it’s all the more an honour and pleasure to see every month new speech-fans and -friends registering for this newsletter, both European institutions insiders and citizens caring for words and quotes to express their ideas in a powerful way. Welcome and thank you for your trust.
You’ll find the best quotes, speeches, and rhetorical devices below, under ‘Read more’.
Make the most of this summer to get inspiration, read good speeches and books (see the Bibliography section), listen to good stories, and prepare for new challenges.
See you in September.
Advice to a newly elected European Parliament
Comme il est naturel et normal dans une assemblée démocratique telle que la nôtre, nous divergeons par les programmes que nous souhaitons mettre en oeuvre, par les idées que nous voulons défendre et même quant à notre propre rôle.
Gardons-nous cependant du travers qui nous conduirait à faire de notre Assemblée le forum des divisions et des rivalités. Trop souvent déjà, les Communautés européennes donnent à nos opinions publiques l’image d’institutions bloquées, incapables de parvenir dans les délais nécessaires à des décisions.
Notre Parlement aura pleinement satisfait les espoirs qu’il a fait naître si, loin d’être le lieu de résonance des divisions internes de l’Europe, il parvient à exprimer et à faire percevoir par la Communauté l’élan de solidarité si nécessaire aujourd’hui.
As is only natural and normal in a democratic assembly such as ours, we differ on the programmes which we
wish to implement, on the ideas which we wish to advocate and even on the very role we are to play.
Let us, however, avoid the error of turning our Assembly into a forum for rivalry and dissent. Too often in the past, public opinion in our countries has gained the impression that the European Communities are hamstrung institutions, incapable of reaching decisions within the necessary time-limits.
Our Parliament will entirely fulfil the hopes which it has raised if, far from being the sounding-board for the internal divisions of Europe, it succeeds in articulating and bringing home to the Community the spirit of solidarity that is so necessary today.
The value of a speech
One of the great powers and responsibilities of being a central banker is that you can move markets with a single line in a speech. Every word counts a billion. And this is why I always admire Mario's speeches, which are priceless pieces of art.
Telling the story of the euro
Allow me to tell you the story of the euro (…) As every European success story, it is full of crises and lessons learned (…).
And the speech comes full circle :
These six moments, these six examples are all examples of crises. But every time we have been challenged, we have found solutions and even surprised ourselves with what we can achieve. This is a fitting way to tell the story of European construction.
For a series of surprises and lessons learnt, from the British statesman who wanted his grandchildren to be able to pay in euro to the military asked to burn banknotes :
Just as anyone writing speeches for a European audience will benefit from reading Aristotle’s Rhetoric, anyone preparing a speech for a Chinese audience – i.e. more and more European speechwriters – will be well advised to read Guiguzi’s First treatise on rhetoric. Good news: this old Chinese classic has been translated into English. It pro[...]
« I’ll finish with this story: when I was 13 years old, I heard that proposal by President Kennedy to land a person on the moon and bring ‘em back safely in ten years. And I heard adults of that day and time say: that’s reckless; expensive. May well fail. But 8 years and two months later, in the moment that Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon... »Al Gore
This past month has been extremely rich, with the European elections campaign inviting European leaders to translate their ideas into words and their platforms into speeches: several speakers came up with vibrant definitions of political debate and poignant pleas for democracy.
But May is also a special month in the European annual calendar: a month of commemoration (from the end of the Second World War to the Schuman declaration on May 9) and a month of celebration (from the State of the Union in the European University Institute in Florence to the International Charlemagne Prize for the Unity of Europe, in Aachen). These occasions compelled several European leaders to express what Europe - and the European way - is about.
Find out the best quotes, recurring themes, and rhetorical devices below.
We will all need this inspiration at the dawn of a new five-year mandate.
Speeches to comemorate – aka epideictic speeches
The beginning of the month of May is also metaphorically the time of year when we start to reflect. 1 May is Labour Day, when we remember that in 1890 we fought for the eight-hour working day. On 2 May, we remember the victims of the Holocaust, and on 4 May, we remember the victims of war in the Netherlands. On 5 May, we celebrate the Liberation. On 9 May, we celebrate European unification, which, for me, remains the most successful response to the tendency toward self-destruction which we Europeans have often displayed.
It is always difficult to keep these commemorations fresh. This today is one of the most inspiring initiatives – for which I thank you – which challenge us to reflect and discuss, not merely to engage in sterile commemoration. So much seems self-evident today. It is our responsibility to keep commemorations fresh in order to pass on the message and promise to our children and grandchildren too.Read more
With just four weeks to go before the European elections, this newsletter gathers the best quotes and speeches to speak about Europe today.
With several days off in May, you’ll have time to read the short yet most enlightening Chinese classic Treatise on rhetoric, just translated into French this spring – an English annotated translation already available since 2016. See the Bibliography section.
And the Best of the 2019 Cicero speechwriting awards has just been published. You can indulge yourself with one Cicero Award speech a day until the results of the election. I draw your attention to two of them especially: if you want to be energised, the Grand Award: Go boldly. If you want to be moved and read excellence in contemporary European rhetoric, a commemorative speech written by a fellow European speechwriter delivered just one year ago, early May 2018: Never be a bystander.
Today is no time for regrets. The world is fast outpacing Europe.
Europe cannot remain obsessed by the past, when the rest of the world is looking to the future.
It’s time to step up. What we do not do for Europe, nobody will do in our place.
Read the full speech here: Michel Barnier, European Policy Centre Breakfast, 1 April 2019
Ce que nous avons vu cette nuit ensemble à Paris c’est cette capacité de nous mobiliser, nous unir pour vaincre. Au cours de notre histoire, nous avons bâti des villes, des ports, des églises. Beaucoup ont brûlé ou ont été détruites par les guerres, les révolutions ou les fautes des hommes. A chaque fois, à chaque fois, nous les avons reconstruites.
Retrouvez le discours entier ici : Emmanuel Macron, Adresse à la nation au lendemain de l’incendie de Notre-Dame de Paris, 16 avril 2019
From this place [Strasbourg, France], I would like to say words of comfort and solidarity with the whole French nation in the face of the Paris tragedy. I say these words not only as the president of the European Council, but also as a citizen of Gdańsk, 90 percent destroyed and burnt, and later rebuilt. You will also rebuild your cathedral.
From Strasbourg, the French capital of the European Union, I call on all the 28 Member States to take part in this task. I know that France could do it alone, but at stake here is something more than just material help.
The burning of the Notre Dame cathedral has again made us aware that we are bound by something more important and more profound than Treaties. Today we understand better the essence of that, which is common, we know how much we can lose. And that we want to defend it – together.
Read the full speech here: Donald Tusk, to the European Parliament, 10 April
With the European elections in just two months, it is topical that this month’s harvest offers a selection of speeches with a special focus on building a rapport with the audience. You’ll find your monthly selection of the best speeches and quotes below.
Building a rapport with this audience, in this place, for this event
- Here in Lund, Sweden
In 1962, before many of us were even born, a young law graduate from the United States arrived here in Lund. The topic of her studies – civil procedure in Sweden – wasn’t one that seemed likely to change the world. And yet the things that Ruth Bader Ginsburg saw here in Sweden really did end up changing the lives of millions of women.
- Here in Berlin, Germany
I was born in the year that the Berlin wall was built. Our son Marc was born in the year the Berlin wall came down. Our son Max was born in the year 2004, when Europe became one and whole again by the enlargement with the Central and Eastern European countries. I say this because for a global audience this perhaps seems to be just a bit of history, but for me it is my life.
How to organise ideas and assemble words so that the speech achieves something: bond with the audience, make sense out of the flow of events, and call to action?
With the Brexit deadline in just one month and climate change’s awareness growing and growing, great speeches are not only welcome; they are necessary. You’ll find a selection of the best speeches and quotes below.
For our French-speaking readers, je vous signale, dans le numéro de Sciences humaines du mois de mars 2019, un dossier spécial sur l’art de parler: une introduction générale à cette discipline riche de 25 siècles et un rappel de son importance et de son intérêt, à l’heure où elle revient dans les programmes scolaires.
Logos, pathos and ethos combined
Ladies and gentlemen, I have five grandchildren. Four of them are in primary school. The youngest is only one year old.
Perhaps that’s why the following story struck such a particular chord. I was reading a BBC article about the recent climate demonstrations here in Belgium. Groups of primary schoolchildren were marching with their grandparents. One child held up a hand-written sign. It said: “2080: what are polar bears?”