Dear speech-fans and -friends,
Over the summer, two major European figures passed away: Helmut Kohl and Simone Veil. Their lives inspired eulogies that stand out as they provide an opportunity to stand back and reflect on what ultimately matters, celebrate values and achievements, and share a vision of what unites us. Little surprise that several quotes in this selection come from these epideictic speeches.
Our shared interest for great speeches has found an unusual space on TV this summer. The European TV channel Arte has a special series on great speeches, available en français : Les grands discours und natürlich auch auf Deutsch: Grosse Reden
You will find more quotes, tips and books on: logospathosethos.eu
The history of her life is the history of our continent, the history of a continent torn apart, lost, which experienced the worst atrocities of which humanity is capable, but which, like her, found the strength to rise up again, to rebuild itself and to be reborn.
In her inaugural speech, which she gave on 17 July 1979, she showed that she grasped the true nature of the responsibility on her shoulders.
This is what she said: ‘For this is the first time in history, a history in which we have so frequently been divided, pitted one against the other, bent on mutual destruction, that the people of Europe have together elected their delegates to a common assembly . Let there be no doubt, these elections form a milestone on the path of Europe, the most important since the signing of the Treaties’.
In a 23-minute speech, she set out, with exceptional clear-sightedness, a vision for the development of our Parliament over the next 40 years.
I urge you to read the speech, if you have not already done so, because it seems to me to be remarkably topical. You will find in it enthusiasm, hopes, expectations, the ambitions of a whole generation of men and women who sat on these benches before us and who we should all take as our inspiration.
Antonio Tajani, Formal European Parliament ceremony in honour of Simone Veil, 4 July 2017
As the President of the European Parliament urges us to read Simone Veil’s inaugural speech, you can read here the original in French, and here in English. You can also watch her delivering this speech.
The power of the ‘Why’ question
I ask you to think about something not in my notes. I was looking around this crowd today, and all of us who used to be in office, all of us who came. Why ?
Because Helmut Kohl gave us the chance to be involved in something bigger than ourselves, bigger than our terms of office, bigger than our fleeting careers, because all of us, sooner or later, will be in a coffin like that.
Bill Clinton, Personal farewell to Helmut Kohl, 1 July 2017
I am probably the only person in this room who saw Helmut Kohl cry during a meeting. It was on 13 December 1997. On that day, the European Council, under my chairmanship in Luxembourg, decided to enlarge the European Union to eastern and central Europe and to Cyprus and Malta. During lunch, Helmut Kohl asked for permission to speak — which was unusual, because he usually just took the floor. He asked to speak during lunch and said, choking back the tears, that that day, on which accession negotiations began, was one of the finest moments of his life. That he, as German Federal Chancellor, was able to witness that historic integration of Europe – after all the harm, as he said, that Germany had inflicted on Europe. Then he went quiet, internally at peace, and cried for many minutes. He was not the only one. No one was ashamed of their tears. Europe at its best!
Jean-Claude Juncker, European ceremony of honour for Helmut Kohl, 1 July 2017
Multiple identities - I
As a European, a Pole and someone from Gdańsk in equal measure, I feel particularly well placed to say a few words of farewell to Helmut Kohl, honorary citizen of Europe and honorary citizen of Gdańsk. It is no coincidence that my home town, the town in which the Solidarity movement had its roots, decided to bestow that title on the late Chancellor Kohl (…).
Helmut Kohl's contribution to the process of building mutual understanding was momentous. It is thanks to him, as well as others, that words such as 'trust' and 'reconciliation' became meaningful once more in Franco-German and German-Polish relations.
Donald Tusk, European ceremony of honour for Helmut Kohl, 1 July 2017
Multiple identities - II
The Ulster poet John Hewitt famously spoke of his multiple identities - as an Ulsterman of planter stock, as Irish, as British and as European.
He believed that we all have multiple identities, it's what makes us what we are.
This is a strength, not a weakness; an opportunity, not a threat.
It is something we should embrace about ourselves and about others, not something we should see as an impurity or a means of exclusion.
It is at the very heart of the Good Friday Agreement - the right of the people of Northern Ireland to be British, or Irish, or both.
And, of course, the right to be European.
Leo Varadkar, The Future of Relationships North and South, 4 August 2017
It is my real pleasure to welcome you today to Lisbon and to host this event. I am particularly proud of the setting, which could not be more relevant. Portugal's history is so intertwined with the history of the Atlantic Ocean. My first memories as a child are overlooking the ocean with my father hand in hand.
My father used to tell me stories about the oceans, scientists and philosophers. …
For the full story, read the speech: Carlos Moedas, Signing of the Belém Statement, 13 July 2017