Dear Speech-fans and -friends,

Why does the art of speeches matter so much?

Speechwriter Simon Lancaster explains it quite well in his Ted talk: (watch:) Speak like a leader. It is becoming viral within the speechwriting community and for good reason.

This month harvest of speeches illustrates his point, by revealing once again the great potential of remembrance speeches, in Hiroshima, Verdun, or on Europe Day.

If you understand French, (écoutez:) La parole comme une arme: l'éloquence en politique. Cette émission radiophonique d’une heure est consacrée à l’éloquence de la politique française mais ses conclusions valent bien au-delà de l’hexagone. 

Enjoy this selection,


The point I’m making here is very serious : The reason we all used to learn rhetoric at school was because it was seen as a basic entry point to society. How could society be fair unless everyone had equal ability to articulate and express themselves ? Without it, your legal systems, your political systems, your financial sytems are not fair. It should be of intense concern to all of us that education in this has been narrowed to a very small and powerful elite (…)

Let’s revive rhetoric, let’s really reinvigorate debates around the world and let’s really give every child on the planet to become a leader.  What should we call this grand initiative ? Well here’s an idea. How about : democracy ?

(Full speech:) Simon Lancaster, Speak like a leader, April 2016 

Commemorating Europe Day

What has happened to you, the Europe of humanism, the champion of human rights, democracy and freedom?

What has happened to you, Europe, the home of poets, philosophers, artists, musicians, and men and women of letters?

What has happened to you, Europe, the mother of peoples and nations, the mother of great men and women who upheld, and even sacrificed their lives for, the dignity of their brothers and sisters?

(Full speech:) Pope Francis, Conferral of the Charlemagne Prize, 6 May 2016 (also available in Arabic, German, French, Italian, Polish, and Portuguese)

Retrouvons donc le courage de nos prédécesseurs, le courage d'affronter les difficultés pour les vaincre, celui de ne pas subir l'histoire mais de faire l'histoire, d'en être les architectes, les artisans, les constructeurs. Audaces fortuna juvat. Nous le devons aux jeunes Européens.

Jean-Claude Juncker, Award Ceremony of the Charlemagne Prize to Pope Francis, 6 May 2016

Today, Europe is going through turbulent times, and faces what may be a decisive test of its unity. More than ever, we need courageous citizens who are prepared to stand up for the idea of European unity, we need people to shake us out of our apathy and remind us what is really important: peace, solidarity and mutual respect - the need to emphasise what unites us, not what divides us. It is because he has done just that - reminded us what is important - that Pope Francis is being awarded the Charlemagne Prize today. Your Holiness, please accept my heartfelt congratulations.

Martin Schulz, Award Ceremony of the Charlemagne Prize, 6 May 2016


Commemorating Hiroshima

Seventy-one years ago, on a bright, cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed.  A flash of light and a wall of fire destroyed a city and demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself.  

Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima?  

Barack Obama, Remarks at Hiroshima Peace Memorial, 27 May 2016


Commemorating Verdun

Aujoud’hui, cent ans après (…), nous célébrons ceux qui sont tombés, pas simplement à Verdun, mais lors de toutes les batailles de la grande guerre. C’est le sens de toute commémoration et c’est encore plus vrai à Douaumont, dans cette nécropole aux seize mille croix, dans cet endroit de la nécropole nationale qui est devenu la mémoire européenne. Ici, c’est l’histoire qui nous parle et nous livre ses implacables leçons. La première de ces leçons, c’est de se souvenir de l’engrenage infernal qui a conduit l’Europe a sa perte à l’été 1914 (…). Cet enchainement n’était pas fatal. C’est celui des nationalismes (…), des rivalités et des peurs, quand chacun croyant défendre ses intérêts travaille en réalité à la perte de tous.

François Hollande, Cérémonie du centenaire de la bataille de Verdun, 29 mai 2016


Contrast to make it memorable

We have full-time Europeans when it comes to taking, and we have part-time Europeans when it comes to giving.

In former times, all those implied in the project were full-time Europeans. Now we have too many part-time Europeans.

Jean-Claude Juncker, Panel discussion on the "State of the European Union", 5 May 2016


How to build a case

Over the past thirty years, there's been one voice in Europe which has consistently made the case for the single market: Britain's. 

We've pushed to get rid of trade barriers to make it easier for European companies to grow and sell into bigger markets and compete effectively with rivals in America, China or Japan.  We've championed competition and free trade inside Europe, and with the rest of the world, as a force for good: a force for growth, for jobs, and for better products and services at lower prices.

Jonathan Hill, Better off in the EU and the Single Market, 23 May 2016


If we voted to leave the EU? What would the alternatives be? How would they work?

To be honest, it's quite hard to keep up because the answer keeps changing, as one plan after another has been abandoned when it's turned out to offer a worse deal than the one Britain has now.

First, we were going to be like Norway, until it was pointed out that Norway has to obey most EU rules without having any say over them, and pay into the EU budget as well. Then we were going to be like Switzerland, until it was pointed out that Switzerland has to follow EU rules where it does have market access, but doesn't have direct access to EU markets in services, which is, of course, the most important part of Britain's economy and the one where we have the biggest surplus.

Then there was going to be a trade deal like Canada's, but that trade deal, while great for trade between European countries and Canada, is limited in services, doesn't include the passporting that is so important for Britain's financial services industry, and still includes some taxes on trade and quotas on beef, all of which would be deeply damaging for Britain's trade with Europe.  And so it has gone on until we were told we could model ourselves on Albania (…)

We have also been told that we should look to the Commonwealth and Britain's special relationship with the US instead of Europe. But when the leaders of Australia, India, Canada  and the United States, amongst others, say that they think it's in Britain's interests to remain in the EU, we're told not to listen to bunch of meddling foreigners (…)

Scepticism is a core part of the great British tradition of empiricism. It means mistrusting grands projets and fine visions. It means questioning, doubting, wanting firm evidence before we believe something. It means listening to the little voice in our heads which says "are you sure that's a good idea"?

I am the last person to claim that the EU is perfect. Like any human institution it never will be. The question is whether the huge disruption of leaving would produce something better.

Jonathan Hill, Better off in the EU and the Single Market, 23 May 2016