Happy New Year!
That 2019 will be happy is by no means a foregone conclusion. Stakes are high (for our non-European readers, 2019 will see European elections resulting in a new European Parliament and a new European Commission; and one of our Member States will decide how to leave the Union) and challenges are huge, as this past month selection shows once again: populism and the defense of our fundamental values, climate change (with the COP 24 speeches), terrorism and sexual violence (with the Nobel peace prize lectures). All call for speeches that identify clearly the issue, show progress and give hope, and empower in strong calls for action. This selection of speeches and quotes shines a spotlight on a few such speeches.
So, to start well this new year, enjoy the reading below and, more than ever :
Call for action
(English below) Vos Majestés, Distingués membres du Comité Nobel, Mesdames et Messieurs, Amis de la paix,
Le défi est clair. Il est à notre portée.
Pour les Sarah, pour les femmes, les hommes et les enfants du Congo, je vous lance un appel urgent de ne pas seulement nous remettre le Prix Nobel de la Paix mais de vous mettre debout et de dire ensemble et à haute voix : « La violence en RDC, c’est assez ! Trop c’est trop ! La paix maintenant ! »
Your Majesties, Distinguished Members of the Nobel Committee, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends of peace,
The challenge is clear. It is within our reach.
For all Sarahs, for all women, for all men and children of Congo, I call upon you not only to award this Nobel Peace Prize to my country’s people, but to stand up and together say loudly: “The violence in the DRC, it’s enough! Enough is enough! Peace, now!”
Thank you very much for this honour, but the fact remains that the only prize in the world that can restore our dignity is justice and the prosecution of criminals.
Today is a special day for me.
It is the day when good has triumphed over evil,
the day when humanity defeated terrorism,
the day that the children and women who have suffered persecution have triumphed over the perpetrators of these crimes.
If credibility is of the essence, get ready to address the challenge raised by this teenager
You’re never too small to make a difference.
In politics, bridges are more important than walls, though we know how much easier and faster it is to raise a wall, than to build a bridge.
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[...]
« Hearing all this discussion about sovereignty, I maintain that Poland is now more sovereign, more master of its own destiny than in the thousand years before it became Member of the European Union. By pooling its sovereignty with other European nations, for the first time in its history Poland has borders that are no longer disputed by its neighbou... »Frans Timmermans
Dear speech-fans and -friends,
Depth and gravity marked the speeches delivered this past month as Europe commemorated the hundredth anniversary of the end of the first world war, the eightieth anniversary of the Kristallnacht, or looked ahead to global challenges, with the Katowice COP 24 just starting,
These speeches typically call for good lines, as you can see below in our monthly selection of what good rhetoric is.
I want to say this with all the force I have in me today,
because the coming night we will be thinking about the 80th anniversary of the Kristallnacht in Germany.
And this is for me the ultimate symbol that if you just put enough effort into it, as Hitler and Goebbels did, in a couple of years' time, even in a sophisticated society, you can manipulate people's anxieties and fear and instrumentalize it to such a degree that you can dehumanise part of your population, especially if you can say that they are different. This is what happened in Germany between 1933 and 1938.
The power of the ‘Why’ question
Eighty years since the pogrom night – why, ladies and gentlemen, am I talking to you about this today?
... and the speech comes full circle
This is why we commemorate today (…). That is the message and the essence of our acts of commemoration today.
The power of the ‘Why’ question … and who raises this question
Il y a 10 ans, en 2008, mourrait à l’âge de 110 ans le dernier combattant français connu de la Grande Guerre, M. Lazare Ponticelli. Chaque 11 novembre, M. Ponticelli, immigré italien, honorait la promesse faite à ses camarades tombés trop jeunes au combat. Il se rendait au monument aux morts pour penser à eux.
A la toute fin de sa vie, il avait finalement accepté de témoigner dans les écoles. Et son témoignage commençait ainsi - et je cite: « D’abord, je n’ai jamais su pourquoi on se battait… ».
Ten years ago, in 2008, Mr. Lazare Ponticelli, the last known French veteran of the Great War, died at the age of 110. Every year on 11 November, Mr. Ponticelli, an Italian immigrant, honoured the promise he had made to his comrades who had died too young on the battlefield. He used to visit his local war memorial to remember them. Right at the end of his life, he had finally agreed to talk to schoolchildren about his experience. He always began with these words: “First of all, I never knew why we were fighting …”
Dear speech-fans and -friends,
Just back from the Professional Speechwriters Association ‘s 2018 Word Conference: the opening keynote speech was a call for going high when they go low (Philip Collins wrote this book I recommended last year) and the closing keynote session focused on ‘Enough said : What’s gone wrong with the language of politics’, with New York Times CEO, Mark Thompson interviewed on his book.
I had already recommended the first one in the bibliography. I’ve read the second one and recommend it to anyone who wonders what has happened – when and how – and what to do. With these two highlights of the conference and everything in between, as well as the conversations during the breaks, it’s definitely a call to do our best, especially in times of important elections on the other side of the Atlantic this week, and on our side next spring.
Next to an updated bibliography, you'll find the monthly selection of what good rhetoric is below.
A rhetorical treasure from the Professional Speechwriters Association’s 2018 World Conference
Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product (…) counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.
Dear speech-fans and -friends,
One speech stands out this month: it mobilises a whole range of rhetorical forces and ammunition to serve a message that concerns all of us. This speech is the United Nations Secretary General’s call for action on climate change, delivered on 10 September 2018.
If you read only one speech this month, read this one! Which is why, exceptionally, there is only one speech in this newsletter.
One speech, but myriad rhetorical devices. I’ve identified some of them below, and under "Read more".
Very important as well: the Professional Speechwriters Association’s 2018 World Conference starts in just three weeks in Washington, DC. I will be there. Let me know if you will.
How to address the audience
Dear friends of planet Earth,
Start with a bang
I have asked you here to sound the alarm.
Climate change is the defining issue of our time – and we are at a defining moment.
We face a direct existential threat.
Dear speech-fans and -friends,
Here’s your selection of the best quotes and speeches delivered over the summer.
Stories emerge as a leading theme.
Why do we tell stories?
Why is it important to tell them?
Why do they work so powerfully in speeches?
Of course, I mean well-chosen and well-told stories. The Bibliography section on this website has several references that explain what a story is (in contrast to anecdotes), how to set the scene and build the character so that the audience will be eager to listen to what happens next and will remember your message.
You’ll find these and more examples of what good rhetoric is below.
Why do we tell stories ?
Many (people) have already forgotten.
Little by little, perspectives have changed.
Stories have been misremembered.
The danger of memories is that they do not die suddenly –
they fade, and they are distorted.
It's in all of our interests to constantly refresh them.
I mention this story for three reasons. First, I want to pay tribute to Mr Brookins and all other American soldiers for their courage and bravery (…). Secondly, because many (…) who were there that day in December 1944 are no longer around to tell the story themselves. (…)The third reason is that this story shows the unbreakable bond that makes the transatlantic partnership what it is. This bond explains a lot about how we have been able to come so far together.
Stories are memorable
Solche Schilderungen lassen mich nicht los.
I can’t forget these stories.
Read the full speech: Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Turkish-German coffee afternoon, 22 August 2018, translated into Englishand in Turkish, given the subject and the audience.