Dear speech-fans and -friends,
Most of the speeches this month have a common theme:
From H-D Gensher’s most famous quotation that we recall as he just passed away,
to European current affairs,
to forward-looking speeches delivered in places of former divisions, in Cyprus and between the United States and Cuba,
to George Clooney’s reminder of how to deal with giant numbers.
This common theme is refugees.
This selection is completed by Al Gore’s Case for optimism and shines a spotligh on some of the best rhetorical devices,
and a few lines from Imre Kertész’s Nobel Lecture Eureka - on the occasion of his passing away on 31 March 2016 - as an invitation to explore Nobel Lectures.
Looking forward to your comments and reactions,
It’s too much to talk about giant numbers.
It’s actually easy to dismiss giant numbers.
But it’s very hard to dismiss a young child sitting on the ground crying when her mother’s telling the story about how she left.
G. Clooney - of refugee descent (sic) - meeting Syrian refugees, 15 March 2016
Former German Foreign affairs Minister H-D Gensher’s most famous quotation
Wir sind heute zu Ihnen gekommen, um Ihnen mitzuteilen, dass heute Ihre Ausreise…
We have come to you today, to announce, that today, your leaving the country …
H-D Genscher, to 4500 East-Germans who had sought refuge in the German Embassy in Prague, 30 September 1989
To refresh our memory on this speech: The Guardian
What has become of us?
What has become of us?
The richest continent in the world, with 500 million inhabitants, and yet to say from the outset that we would be unable to accept one or two million refugees ?
Talking to the King of Jordan and the Lebanese Prime Minister, as I do on a regular basis, leaves me feeling ashamed. Jordan, a country with 8-9 million inhabitants, has taken over 630 000 refugees from Syria, a figure which excludes the 500 000 Palestinian refugees. In Lebanon, 25 % of the population are refugees, newly arrived from Syria. And we, as Europeans, say we can’t manage. What must the others think of us?
President J-C Juncker, The European Union: a source of stability in a time of crisis, The Hague, 3 March 2016
Yes, it is the best of times and it is the worst of times. But above all, it is the time for us in Europe to stand up for our values and be candid.
I would like to pay tribute to Sweden's response to the refugee crisis. Your country has long received the highest number of people seeking protection way before the current crisis started. Your solidarity is a shining light.
When a country so far north in the Union is affected so directly by events to the south, we know we are in this together.
Vice-President Georgieva, with Stefan Löfven, Prime Minister of Sweden on "The current situation in the European Union", European Parliament, 9 March 2016
I was born in 1955 - in post-war Germany, in a town close to where Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands meet, in a divided country. I know from my own experience how long it takes for the wounds of war to heal and what it means to grow up in a place where borders are an inescapable reality. After the war, the European unification process made it possible for West Germany to rejoin the family of European peoples. Our neighbours chose reconciliation, not retaliation.
President M Schulz, Speech to the Cyprus Parliament, 29 March 2016
Havana is only 90 miles from Florida, but to get here we had to travel a great distance -- over barriers of history and ideology; barriers of pain and separation.
President B Obama, Remarks to the People of Cuba, 22 March 2016
Also available in Spanish
In these difficult times, here’s a Case for optimism
I have some bad news but I have a lot more good news.
I’m gonna propose three questions and the answer to the first one necessary involves little bad news but hang on because the answers to the second and third questions really are very positive.
The first question is : Do we really have to change ?
Challenge the most obvious
The sky is not the vast and limitless expanse that appears when we look up from the ground ; it is a very thin shell of atmosphere surrounding the planet.
[On the zika epidemic] When women in some regions of South and Central America are advised not to get pregnant for two years, that’s something new that ought to get our attention.
The answer to the first question: Must we change ? is: Yes, we have to change. Second question: Can we change ? This is the exciting news.
Easy to grasp precedent, that relates to everyone’s life
Is there any precedent for such a rapid adoption of a new technology ? Well there are many but let’s look at cell phones. In 1980, AT&T commissioned McKenzie to do a global market survey of those clunky new mobile phones that appeared then.
How many can we sell by 2000, they asked.
McKenzie came back and said: 900 000.
And sure when the year 2000 arrived, they did sell 900 000 … in the first three days.
And for the balance of the year, they sold a 120 times more.
So the answer to the second question: Can we change is cleary: Yes. And it’s an ever firmer yes. Now so, last question: Will we change ?
Anaphora and climax :
All of these coal plants were proposed in the last ten years and cancelled.
All of these existing coal plants were retired.
All of these coal plants have had their retirement announced.
All of them: cancelled.
We are moving forward.
Take a well-known story … and reveal a little-known but meaningful fact
I’ll finish with this stnory: 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, there was a great cheer that went up in NASA’s mission control in Houston.
Here’s a little-known fact about that: the average age of the system’s engineers, the controlers in the room that day was 26, which means among other things their age when they heard that challenge was 18.
We now have a moral challenge that is in the tradition of others that we have faced.
Al Gore 2016 Ted talk, The case for optimism on climate change
Nobel lectures offer a vast source of inspiration for speechwriters.
Hungarian writer Imre Kertész, who passed away on 31 March 2016, delivered this Nobel Lecture Eureka in 2002.
Consider what happened to language in the twentieth century, what became of words. I daresay that the first and most shocking discovery made by writers in our time was that language, in the form it came down to us, a legacy of some primordial culture, had simply become unsuitable to convey concepts and processes that had once been unambiguous and real. Think of Kafka, think of Orwell, in whose hands the old language simply disintegrated. It was as if they were turning it round and round in an open fire, only to display its ashes afterward, in which new and previously unknown patterns emerged.
Imre Kertész, 2002 Nobel Lecture, Eureka
Also a vailable in Hungarian, French, Swedish, and German.