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! 

Best wishes,

Great speeches,

Isabelle

 

Urgency

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.

Greta Thunberg, Our house is on fire, 25 January 2019

 

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.

Michel Barnier, Debate on the UK's withdrawal from the EU, 16 January 2019

 

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.

Margrethe Vestager, Award of Gold Medal for Public Discourse, Trinity College Dublin Historical Society, 25 January 2019



Call for action

I am returning from there, from the funeral ceremonies for the murdered mayor of my city, Paweł Adamowicz. He loved Gdańsk, he was a Polish patriot and a heart and soul European at the same time (…) A few days ago, (…) the people of Gdańsk honoured their mayor. Over 50,000 people stood for many hours on a freezing cold night in order to make a bow, if only for a second, before his coffin.

It is for such people, and thanks to such people, that Europe exists. 

Keep working to strengthen it, do not let the idea die. 

France and Germany need it to the exact same degree as Poland, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Ireland. 

Remember this today and tomorrow. I, in any case, will continue reminding you about it.

Donald Tusk, Signing ceremony of the Franco-German Treaty of Aachen, 22 January 2019

 

Repetition, repetition, repetition – here with anaphora

Nobody should be under any illusion: 

Brexit does harm. 

It does harm to the United Kingdom. 

It does harm to the European Union. 

And we are under an obligation as politicians to limit the harm to the absolute minimum possible.

Frans Timmermans Debate on the UK's withdrawal from the EU, 16 January 2019

 

Antithesis and anaphora

This compromise brings legal certainty where Brexit creates uncertainty – like in any separation –:

 - Certainty for citizens – British citizens and the citizens of the 27 other Member States – whose rights will be guaranteed in a lasting way. These guarantees were always our priority – your priority, in particular – and the protection of these rights will remain our priority in all circumstances;

Certainty for the managers of public or private projects, beneficiaries of the European budget – whether they are British (of which there are many) or from the 27 other Member States – whose projects will be maintained thanks to the deal we have;

Certainty and stability for Ireland and Northern Ireland, where the return to a hard border would be avoided thanks to a solution which preserves, on the one hand, the integrity of the United Kingdom and on the other, the Single Market, while respecting what we have committed to respect: the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement. This is also why, ladies and gentlemen, the backstop which we have agreed with the United Kingdom must remain a backstop and it must remain credible. The backstop must be a backstop; it must be credible.

Certainty for businesses and administrations, which will have a transition period – the legal basis of which I recall is the Withdrawal Agreement – during which they will have the necessary time to adapt.   

Michel Barnier, Debate on the UK's withdrawal from the EU, 16 January 2019

 

Whom do you quote?

Classical: a writer from the country – I

Let me end with a quote by C.S. Lewis: "We cannot go back and change the beginning. But we can start where we are and change the ending".

Frans Timmermans Debate on the UK's withdrawal from the EU, 16 January 2019

 

Classical: a writer from the country – II

I was inspired by the vision for post-World War II Europe by the great diplomat, Grigore Gafencu: “There is only one Europe! Even if its body is mutilated and quartered, the European ideal is inseparable. Europe cannot rise from the ashes in the West, if it dies in the East. There is no other place where the call for Europe is answered more strongly than in eastern European countries. The ideal of European unity is a pledge for peace and, therefore, freedom, for half a continent.”

Antonio Tajani, Official launch of the Romanian Presidency, 10 January 2019

 

Surprise your audience : from the country, but not a writer

Mircea Eliade, whom I quoted earlier, Emil Cioran, the Dadaist Tristan Tzara, Eugen Ionescu – they are all heroes of my imagination. And so are the athletes, who have delighted audiences around the globe, such as Nadia Comăneci and Simona Halep. But what has left the greatest imprint on my memory was the 1986 European Cup final in Sevilla, that is the victory of Steaua Bucharest over Barcelona. And I would like to appeal to all Romanians, to defend, at home and in Europe, the foundations of our political civilisation – freedom, integrity, the truth in public life, the rule of law and the constitution – with the same determination as Helmuth Duckadam when he defended penalty shots. Back then I also couldn't believe it possible to save 4 penalties in a row! But he made it. And also you will make it. I will help you with this as much as I can.

Donald Tusk, Opening ceremony of the Romanian Presidency, 10 January 2019

 

Build a rapport with your audience – speak their language

Greeting

(For our non-European readers, the speaker is fluent in several languages but not this audience’s language).

Domnule Presedinte,

Doamna Prim-Ministru,

Dragi prieteni.

For those who are less fluent in Romanian than I am, this means Mister President, Madam Prime Minister, dear friends.

Jean-Claude Juncker, Opening ceremony of the Romanian presidency, 10 January 2019

 

Or the whole speech

(The speech was delivered in the audience’s language, and translated and published in English)

And I would like to appeal to all Romanians, to defend, at home and in Europe, the foundations of our political civilisation – freedom, integrity, the truth in public life, the rule of law and the constitution – with the same determination as Helmuth Duckadam when he defended penalty shots. Back then I also couldn't believe it possible to save 4 penalties in a row! But he made it. And also you will make it. I will help you with this as much as I can.

Donald Tusk, Opening ceremony of the Romanian Presidency, 10 January 2019

 

Alternate the rhythm: 

After delievering several long, explanatory, classical sentences to the audience,

Why not short ?

Really short ?

The best-selling brand in our world today is indeed fear.  

It gets ratings.  

It wins votes. 

It generates clicks. 

António Guterres, Opening remarks at first press conference of 2019, 18 January 2019

 

Simile: make it concrete

Evidemment, ce backstop, nous ne souhaitons pas l'utiliser, comme personne parmi vous ne souhaite utiliser son assurance.

Michel Barnier, Speech at the European economic and social committee, 23 January 2019

 

If you can’t summarize your speech in one sentence, you’re not ready

If I had to select one sentence to describe the state of the world, I would say we are in a world in which global challenges are more and more integrated, and the responses are more and more fragmented, and if this is not reversed, it's a recipe for disaster.

Antonio Guterres, Davos speech, 24 January 2019

 

Calling past achievements to memory, aka anamnesis

L'événement d'aujourd'hui est un événement surprise. Rappelez-vous que nombreux furent ceux qui, lorsque nous avons lancé le processus nous conduisant vers la monnaie unique, nous prenaient pour des fous, disant qu'en aucune façon, cette Union monétaire entre des pays si disparates ne pourrait fonctionner. On les entend moins aujourd'hui. Députés, ici et ailleurs; journalistes, partout; professeurs de droit, surtout en Allemagne; professeurs en sciences économiques, encore en Allemagne – tout le monde nous disait que nous nous lancions dans une aventure qui conduirait l'Union européenne au bord de l'abîme.

Nous sommes loin de l'abîme parce qu'aujourd'hui nous pouvons constater – oui, avec satisfaction, avec presque du bonheur – que l'œuvre que nous avons entreprise il y a 20 années fut couronnée de succès.

Jean-Claude Juncker, Celebration of the 20th anniversary of the euro, 15 January 2019


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