Dear speech-fans and -friends,

Two main themes mark the speeches delivered this summer: 

- buiding the speaker’s ethos. We see this in new European leaders introducing themselves as they are preparing for their mandates and taking office. 

- And raising the alarm on global warming. This issue is in so many speeches. The challenge is to find the words and craft the speeches the situation is calling for : simple, clear, compelling so as to move from promises to action.

You’ll find the best quotes, speeches, and rhetorical devices below, under ‘Read more’.

To accompany and inspire you as you get back to work, what better advice than starting every day with a speech of note? The anthology ‘Speeches of note’ is all you need and you’ll find the details in the Bibliography section (the English version is already published ; the French translation is announced for next month).

Best wishes,

Great speeches,




How European leaders build their ethos

I- European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen

(English translation below)

(The opening was delivered in French)

Il y a exactement 40 ans, la première présidente du Parlement européen, Simone Veil, est élue et présente sa vision d’une Europe plus unie et plus juste.

C’est grâce à elle, et à toutes les autres icônes européennes, que je vous présente aujourd’hui ma vision de l’Europe.

Et 40 ans plus tard, c’est avec une grande fierté que je peux dire : C’est finalement une femme qui est la candidate à la présidence de la Commission européenne.

Je le suis grâce à tous ceux et toutes celles qui ont brisé les barrières et les conventions. Je le suis grâce à tous ceux et toutes celles qui ont construit une Europe de paix, une Europe unie, une Europe des valeurs.

C’est cette conviction européenne qui m'a guidée tout au long de ma vie et de ma carrière - en tant que mère, en tant que médecin et en tant que femme politique.

C’est ce courage et cette audace des pionnières comme Simone Veil qui est au cœur de ma vision d’Europe.

Et ce sera cet esprit qui guidera la Commission européenne que j'ai l'intention de présider.

Read the full speech : Ursula von der Leyen, Opening Statement in the European Parliament Plenary Session, delivered in French, German and English, 16 July 2019

 English translation :

Exactly 40 years ago, Simone Veil was elected as the first female President of the European Parliament and set out her vision for a fairer and more united Europe.

It is thanks to her, and to all the other European icons, that I am presenting my vision of Europe to you today.

And 40 years later, I can say with great pride that we finally have a female candidate for European Commission President.

I am that candidate thanks to all the men and women who have broken down barriers and defied convention. I am that candidate thanks to all the men and women who built a Europe of peace, a united Europe, a Europe of values.

It is this belief in Europe that has guided me throughout my life and my career — as a mother, as a doctor and as a politician.

It is the courage and daring of pioneers such as Simone Veil that are at the heart of my vision for Europe.

And it is my intention to lead the European Commission in that same spirit.

Read the full speech translated in 24 official languages


II - President of the European Parliament David Maria Sassoli

(To watch it in your language, see below.)

(Traduction en français ci-dessous.)

Io sono figlio di un uomo che a 20 anni ha combattuto contro altri europei, e di una mamma che, anche lei ventenne, ha lasciato la propria casa e ha trovato rifugio presso altre famiglie.

Io so che questa è la storia anche di tante vostre famiglie... e so anche che se mettessimo in comune le nostre storie e ce le raccontassimo davanti ad un bicchiere di birra o di vino, non diremmo mai che siamo figli o nipoti di un incidente della Storia.

Ma diremmo che la nostra storia è scritta sul dolore, sul sangue dei giovani britannici sterminati sulle spiagge della Normandia, sul desiderio di libertà di Sophie e Hans Scholl, sull’ansia di giustizia degli eroi del Ghetto di Varsavia, sulle primavere represse con i carri armati nei nostri paesi dell’Est, sul desiderio di fraternità che ritroviamo ogni qual volta la coscienza morale impone di non rinunciare alla propria umanità e l’obbedienza non può considerarsi virtù.

Watch the full speech here: David Sassoli, acceptance speech as newly elected President of the European Parliament, 3 July 2019

Read the full speech here.

Je suis le fils d’un homme qui, à 20 ans, s’est battu contre d’autres Européens et d’une mère qui, elle aussi à 20 ans, a quitté les siens pour trouver refuge auprès d’autres familles. 

Je sais que cette histoire est aussi l’histoire de beaucoup de vos familles … et que si nous nous racontons nos histoires autour d’un verre, nous ne considérons jamais que nous sommes le fruit d’un accident de l’Histoire. Bien au contraire, nous considérons que notre Histoire est une histoire marquée par la souffrance, par le sang de ces jeunes Britanniques qui ont été tués sur les plages de Normandie, par le désir de liberté de Sophie et Hans Scholl, par la soif de justice des héros du ghetto de Varsovie, par le printemps réprimé par les chars dans les pays de l’Est, par le désir de fraternité que nous devons reconnaître chaque fois que la conscience morale impose de ne pas renoncer à l’humanité et que l’obéissance ne peut être considérée comme une vertu.

Interpretation available in English, French, German… (you can choose from the 24 official languages) here, starting at 13.06.

III - President of the European Council Donal Tusk

Allow me now to say a few words from the bottom of my heart. As President of the European Council and as a Pole. For me, Georgia is not only an important partner of the EU. When I say Georgia, I mean “freedom”, when I say Georgia , I mean “pride”, when I say Georgia, I mean “courage”. You are a small country, but a great nation. You have achieved impossible things, because you were, despite all the differences, united around a common goal, that was a free, independent and modern state.

You have astonished Europe and the whole world. I call on you with an earnest appeal: don’t let yourselves become divided. Only when united, will you endure. Like the whole of Europe.

Read the full speech here: Donald Tusk, Batumi International Conference, 11 July 2019.


IV - European Commissioner Jourova goes to Washington

Before I elaborate briefly on these points, I wanted to share two small personal remarks, because they will help you to understand what drives my actions.

First, a small confession. I wouldn't describe myself as a coder. And I even deleted my Facebook account a few years ago because I felt it had become a place for hatred.

I am a sociologist and a lawyer by training and this background is shaping my views and my actions on the tech revolution in general, and on the Internet in particular.

As a sociologist I am mindful of the effects digitalization and social media have on our society.

As a lawyer and EU Justice Commissioner, I am focusing on equality before the law and legal protection of the people and our values. My mantra is what is illegal offline should be illegal online.  

And the second thing I wanted to tell you is that I don't have a knee-jerk reaction that regulation is the best way to solve all the problems. I am a fan of a more light-touch approach.

Read the full speech here: Vera Jourová, EU-US digital cooperation: a common response to tech challenges, 18 July 2019


Start with the most important question: Why? – I

We are here because the world is facing a grave climate emergency.

Climate disruption is happening now, and it is happening to all of us.

It is progressing even faster than the world’s top scientists have predicted.

It is outpacing our efforts to address it. Climate change is running faster than what we are.

Every week brings new climate-related devastation.

Alternate long and short sentences

Floods.  Drought. Heatwaves.  Wildfires.  Superstorms. (…)

What’s your key message in one line?

My message today – and the message of the summit – is clear and simple.

We are in a battle for our lives. But it is a battle we can win.

Repeat, repeat, repeat

My message is clear.

Solutions exist.

Finish with a clear call for action

Let us accelerate the transformation the world needs, and usher in a new era of sustainability for all people on the planet.

Thank you.

Read the full speech here: António Guterres, Remarks to Climate Summit Preparatory Meeting, 30 June 2019


Start with the most important question: Why? – II

Thank you for inviting me to deliver a speech on “EU green industrial policy”

Why is this important?

Help your audience visualise

If we don’t act fast, we will soon find ourselves in a G2 world where the EU economy is significantly smaller than that of China and the U.S.

Help your audience remember 

we are under the 6 “D”s mega-trends – for:

- Decarbonisation (through both binding legislation and stepped up governance)

- Decentralisation (of power generation, of transport means),

- Democratisation (social inclusiveness, crowd-sourcing, crowd-funding, prosumers etc),

- Digitisation (IoT, 5G, AI etc),

- Diversification (of supply – not only energy and raw materials !)

And - Disruption (cutting-edge / breakthrough innovation and financing models)

Read the full speech here: Maroš Šefčovič, Towards a green industrial policy for the EU, 9 July 2019.


Help your audience remember – II, combined with signposting 

The great Finnish author Väinö Linna wrote about Finland saying:

‘’In the beginning there was the swamp, the hoe and Jussi’’.

The swamp refers to nature, the hoe is technology, and Jussi is the human-being (…)

First, Nature (…)

Second, Väinö Linna talked about the hoe – or Technology (…)

Finally, Jussi. The People, as Väinö Linna intended (…)

And the speech comes full circle

Ladies and gentlemen,

As a Portuguese man, I grew up as far away from Finland as I possibly could have in Europe. And even though our two countries are at opposite ends of Europe geographically, the issues that are most important are universal: our nature, technology and people. 

Read the full speech here: Carlos Moedas, Informal Competitiveness Council, 4 July 2019


Make your figures relate to something the audience can grasp

The figures are quite shocking. Between 1990 and 2016 the world has been losing forest cover at a rate equivalent to about 800 football pitches an hour.

Read the full speech here: Frans Timmermans, Press conference on stepping up EU action to protect and restore the world's forests, 23 July 2019


How to buid a rapport with your audience

·     Greet them in their language (at least greetins, more is even better!)

Dean, Honored members of the faculty, Prime Minister, First Mayor, Class of 2019, Ladies and Gentlemen, and, of course, my dear friend Chancellor Merkel—good morning, ein herzliches Guten Morgen.

It is a great pleasure to be here to honor Angela Merkel, who will soon be awarded the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa for her accomplishments in leadership.

·     Whom do you quote before a German audience, in Leipzig?

As one of her favorite philosophers, Karl Popper once put it: “The future is wide open and depends on us, on all of us. “ (…) 

Think about it: Leibnitz, Goethe, Nietzsche, Wagner, and—of course—Angela Merkel: they all were drinking from the deep well of academic excellence in this beautiful city.

Read the full speech here: Christine Lagarde, Angela Merkel—Striking the Right Note on Leadership, 31 August 31, 2019