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
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[...]
« Read the first line of the Schuman Declaration of 1950: "World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it." This then is the original raison d'être of European integration. -- Frans Timmermans, Annual event of Liberation Route Europe 2018, 3 February 2018 ... »Frans Timmermans
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?”
Dear speech-fans and -friends,
With the Brexit deadline in just two months and no deal voted yet,
with our planet hotter than ever, science to make it clear and more and more people mobilising,
and with the crucial European elections in just four months,
there’s a sense of urgency in the speeches delivered this past month.
Edward R. Murrow’s words – introducing Churchill’s impact at another time of urgency in our history - come to mind:
“Now the hour had come for him to mobilize the English language, and send it into battle, a spearhead of hope for Britain and the world”.
You’ll find sharp spearheads below.
Read them, urgently!
Adults keep saying: ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope’.
But I don’t want your hope.
I don’t want you to be hopeful.
I want you to panic.
I want you to feel the fear I feel every day.
And then I want you to act.
I want you to act as if you were in a crisis.
I want you to act as if the house was on fire. Because it is.
Urgency and leadership
It is 16 January today. We are only 10 weeks away from the end of March, the moment when the UK has chosen to become a third country.
And today, 10 weeks away, the risk of a no deal has never been so high.
Our resolution is to avoid such a scenario, but we also have a responsibility. That is why, we are intensifying our efforts on our side to deal with this scenario.
Logos, pathos, and ethos
Those habits of reasoned debate which you teach are exactly what Europe needs today.
Democracy has always been about feelings, as well as reason. If we forget about feeling, our politics becomes bloodless, detached from the lives of the very people it should serve. But if we forget about reason, we lose our ability to find the solutions that make their lives better.