Dear speech-fans and friends,

The art of speeches is an old enough discipline to keep us from believing the challenges we face are totally new to mankind.

Looking back to history, we can find in leaders confronted to dangers and difficulties some wisdom, vision, and inspiration.

And good stories. And good quotes.

This month’s harvest provides a few examples.




If you read only one speech this month, read this one

by Umberto Eco,

delivered in 2012 when he received the Treaties of Nijmegen Medal.

To decide and recognize what, in a tolerant vision, would remain intolerable for us, is the kind or borderline that Europeans are called to trace every day, with a sense of equity and with the constant exercise of that virtue that, since Aristotle, philosopher called Prudence.

In this philosophical sense, prudence does not mean reluctance to take risks, and does not coincide with cowardice. In the classical sense of phronesis, prudence is the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason.

Umberto Eco, receiving the Treaties of Nijmegen Medal, 7 May 2012



As we learn from the myth of Cadmus, Europe is only to be found in the process of creating it. The true way to define Europe is to build Europe.

Denis de Rougemont, quoted by European Council President D Tusk, Address to the Committee of the Regions, 10 fevrier 2016


If you didn't migrate then your father did, and if your father didn't need to move from place to place, then it was only because your grandfather before him had no choice but to go, [to] put his old life behind him in search of the bread that his own land denied him...

José Saramago, quoted by Commission Carlos Moedas, Understanding migration: the role of research for policy and society, 4 February 2016


Benjamin Franklin wrote that “even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach to us, he would find a pulpit at his service.”

So this is not a new thing.

US President B Obama, Remarks at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, 3 February 2016



Nos conclusions seront scrutées de près alors que beaucoup d'observateurs abondent chaque jour en commentaires qui se sous-catégorisent grosso modo entre ceux qui clament que de psychodrames en psychodrames l'Europe se disloque peu à peu, et ceux qui attendent des dirigeants européens un sursaut d'énergie, de clairvoyance, de vision sur le long terme.

Il nous appartiendra de donner tort aux premiers, et de donner de l'espérance aux seconds, en commençant par notre gestion de la crise des réfugiés, à propos de laquelle tout a déjà été dit, mais où beaucoup reste encore à faire.

President of the European Commission J-C Juncker, Preparation of the European Council meeting of 18 and 19 February 2016



Help you audience understand what it means

In 2050 neither Germany, Italy, France, the United Kingdom nor any other EU Member States will any longer be a member of the G7; they will be second-tier countries! (…)

These figures must give us pause for thought. The world is changing. The 21st century will be the century of world regions.

European Parliament President M Schulz, Turbulent Times, London School of Economics, 5 February 2016


Relate the idea to something the audience has in their pockets

We all know that the digital world moves very fast, but we sometimes lose track just of how fast digital change is happening. I want to give you a quick example. In the 1990s IBM 's Deep Blue became famous for beating Gary Kasparov at chess. It was one of the world's supercomputers, costing millions of dollars to develop. Today, after only 20 years, many of you present today have more computing power in your laptops or smartphones, although, to be fair, your devices are probably not as good as playing chess as Deep Blue was.

Commissioner G Oettinger, Competition challenges in the consumer internet industry, 24 February 2016


Relate your numbers to something your audience can easily grasp

Elephants and rhinos are being similarly depleted. Some 30,000 elephants are still being killed illegally every year.

At this rate, children born today will see the last of the wild elephants and rhinos die before their 25th birthday.

Commissioner K Vella, The EU Action plan against wildlife trafficking, 26 February 2016



I understand that people are concerned.

That's why I'm here in Austria for the second time since I took this job.

President Juncker also knows it.

The Members of the European Parliament know that.

The political leaders not just of Austria but of the other 27 Member States of the European Union know it too.

Commissioner C Malmström, Listening, learning, and changing, 22 February 2012