Dear speech-fans and -friends,

How to organise ideas and assemble words so that the speech achieves something: bond with the audience, make sense out of the flow of events, and call to action?

With the Brexit deadline in just one month and climate change’s awareness growing and growing, great speeches are not only welcome; they are necessary. You’ll find a selection of the best speeches and quotes below.

For our French-speaking readers, je vous signale, dans le numéro de Sciences humaines du mois de mars 2019, un dossier spécial sur l’art de parler: une introduction générale à cette discipline riche de 25 siècles et un rappel de son importance et de son intérêt, à l’heure où elle revient dans les programmes scolaires.

Best wishes,

Great speeches,

Isabelle

 

Logos, pathos and ethos combined

Ladies and gentlemen, I have five grandchildren. Four of them are in primary school. The youngest is only one year old.

Perhaps that’s why the following story struck such a particular chord. I was reading a BBC article about the recent climate demonstrations here in Belgium. Groups of primary schoolchildren were marching with their grandparents. One child held up a hand-written sign. It said: “2080: what are polar bears?”

Karmenu Vella, High-level conference on climate change and oceans preservation, 19 February 2019

 

Great openings: Does the day of the speech mark an unexpected yet relevant anniversary ?

- If the speech is on data and delivered in Cambridge, UK on 4 February 2019

Seventy-five years ago, almost to the day, digital technology scored one of its very first successes. At Bletchley Park, less than 50 miles from here, the world’s first programmable digital electronic  computer, known as Colossus, cracked its first code on 5 February 1944 (…). The pioneers of computing would be astonished if they could see how far we’ve come in 75 years.

Margrethe Vestager, Making the data revolution work for us, Mackenzie Stuart Lecture, Cambridge, 4 February 2019

 

- If the speech is on economic convergence and delivered in Germany on 14 February 2019

I would be remiss if I did not wish all of you a happy Valentine’s Day. I hope that your idea of a romantic evening is filled with conversation on the benefits of economic convergence. Because that is what you will get this evening.

There is another milestone we should celebrate tonight. As you all know, 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I wanted to ask a question about this anniversary. Was the fall of the Berlin Wall a beginning, an end, or a middle? Think about it.

Christine Lagarde, A Commitment to Shared Prosperity: The Next Chapter of Unity in Europe, Keynote Speech — Munich European Conference, February 14, 2019

 

Strong endings: And the speech comes full circle

Opening

Italy holds a very special place in the heart of our Union. It has given Europe so much and has been there from the very start, shaping our Union every step of the way.

It was Spinelli and Rossi, imprisoned on the island of Ventotene, who set out their dream of a “Free and United Europe”.

They called on the nations of Europe, so long adversaries, to come together to ensure that the mistakes of the past would never happen again.

Closing

It was no surprise or coincidence that the first lines of the White Paper were about Spinelli and Rossi's manifesto.

So, as we look to our future, we should all inspire ourselves from those that have gone before us to build a stronger and more united Union for generations that follow – just as they did for us.

Jyrki Katainen, Debate on the Future of Europe with Giuseppe Conte, President of the Council of Ministers of Italy, 12 February 2019

 

Opening

There is another milestone we should celebrate tonight. As you all know, 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I wanted to ask a question about this anniversary. Was the fall of the Berlin Wall a beginning, an end, or a middle? Think about it.

Closing

So, let us return to my original question. Was the fall of the Berlin Wall a beginning, a middle, or an end?

I would argue it was all three. It was a time of new hope, a culmination of a thirty years of work, and it was also a challenge to rebuild.

The same is true of this moment in Europe.

It is a time that requires courage and creativity.

Christine Lagarde, A Commitment to Shared Prosperity: The Next Chapter of Unity in Europe, Keynote Speech — Munich European Conference, February 14, 2019

 

Build the ethos

I have come here as the President of the European Council, but also as a Pole, your closest neighbour, and a sincere and committed friend (…). As your friend I feel as though I can also give you some advice. God forbid I should preach to you; I know you have had enough of all those wise people who know better than you what Ukraine should look like. After all, no one has the right to tell their hosts how to arrange their home. I understand that and it is not my intention to interfere in your work. But perhaps you will accept my advice, because it is given with a good heart. There are five things I would like to say.

Donald Tusk, at the Ukrainian Parliament, 19 February 2019

 

Build a crescendo, amplified by the series of ‘and’ (aka polysyndeton)

Climate change is the most important challenge of this century.  And time is quickly running out. All of us here in this room know it.

So do the 100 000 people who marched for climate action in Brussels on a chilly winter’s day last month.

And the tens of thousands of Belgian schoolchildren who continue to take to the streets week after week.

And the thousands of German and Dutch teenagers and students who are organising themselves under the hashtag “Fridays for Climate”.

And the 80 000 French citizens who joined climate demonstrations on the last Sunday of January.

And perhaps most impressively, at their head, Greta Thunberg. Greta is  the 16 year old girl from Sweden who became an online sensation and a real world actor. She told world leaders at Davos last month to start taking action - now.

Karmenu Vella, High-level conference on climate change and oceans preservation, 19 February 2019

 

Fresh metaphor

When you or I sit down to play a game of chess, we’re playing the same game a grandmaster plays. But they see the board very differently from us. We see a jumble of pieces – the grandmaster takes in the whole board at a glance. We struggle to see just a couple of moves ahead – Magnus Carlsen, the highest-ranked player in history, can see a sequence of as many as 20 moves.

And data can turn us into grandmasters.

Margrethe Vestager, Making the data revolution work for us, Mackenzie Stuart Lecture, Cambridge, 4 February 2019

 

Whom do you quote? 

Tonight, I have quoted from the French and the Germans. In the spirit of unity, let me close with a quote from the British.

It was Churchill, who said, “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

If the European Union draws on its roots and finds a way forward through shared prosperity, I believe we will look back at 2019 as the start of an optimistic new chapter in the European story.

Christine Lagarde, A Commitment to Shared Prosperity: The Next Chapter of Unity in Europe, Keynote Speech — Munich European Conference, February 14, 2019

 

France was actually the very first country to establish a consulate in Scotland.

It was opened by General de Gaulle in 1942. A quote from General de Gaulle’s speech on that occasion is inscribed on the outside wall of the Consul-General’s residence in Edinburgh – it says simply ‘the oldest alliance in the world’.

That of course reflects the fact that our countries enjoy ties of trade, commerce and friendship which go back for more than seven hundred years.

Nicola Sturgeon, Speech at French Assemblée nationale, 19 February 2019

 

Repetition

The European Union said so in November. 

We said so in December. 

We said so after the first meaningful vote in the Commons in January. 

The debate and votes in the House of Commons yesterday do not change that. The Withdrawal Agreement will not be renegotiated.

Jean-Claude Juncker, Debate on the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU, 30 January 2019

 

Contrast

I often say to my colleagues in Brussels: do not teach them Europe; learn from them what Europe means.

Donald Tusk, at the Ukrainian Parliament, 19 February 2019

 

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