Dear speech-fans and -friends,

Happy New Year to you all, long-time subscribers and new readers.

The year 2020 has started well with a rich selection of great quotes and speeches delivered this past month. Whether on European politics or on global warming, to close the year 2019 or inaugurate a new mandate, speechwriters and speakers have combined unexpected questions, fresh lines, strong metaphors, powerful quotes, wise thoughts, and care for the audience to meet their objective: get their message across. 

Hats off to the speakers and speechwriters who have made it to this monthly selection already during their first month in office!

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

Best wishes, 

Great speeches,



Whom do you quote?

Institutions matter. “They give legitimacy and ensure continuity,” as Jean Monnet rightly said. They matter because they expand our capacity to act.  They are a reflection of what we stand for.

Read the full speech here: Charles Michel, Commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Lisbon Treaty, 18 December 2019


What to do with annual speeches?

(English translation below)

Erinnern Sie sich noch? Vor genau zwölf Monaten hatte ich einen Weihnachtswunsch an Sie: "Sprechen Sie auch mal mit Menschen, die anderer Meinung sind."

Lesen Sie die ganze Rede: Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Weihnachtsansprache 2019 Schloss Bellevue, 25. Dezember 2019

Do you remember what I said last year? Twelve months ago I told you my Christmas request.

I asked you to talk to people who do not agree with you.

Today I want to ask you how that went. What debates and discussions have had a particular impact on you this year?

Read the full speech here: Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Christmas message 2019, 25 December 2019

Writers and storytellers, here's the quest

Today our problem lies—it seems—in the fact that we do not yet have ready narratives not only for the future, but even for a concrete now, for the ultra-rapid transformations of today’s world. We lack the language, we lack the points of view, the metaphors, the myths and new fables. 

Read the full speech here (available in English, Swedish, and Polish): Olga Tokarczuk, Nobel prize in literature, Nobel lecture, 7 December 2019


Why should the audience listen to the speaker?

You are all presidents, prime ministers, ministers, political leaders. I am no longer a politician but there was a time in which I was Prime Minister of my country 

What is the speaker’s credibility?

and I remember that at the time - 20 years ago - we approved legislation that forced the grid, the electrical grid, to buy all renewable energy produced at a, at the time, subsidized price. That was probably one of the reasons why Portugal today has a very high percentage of renewable energy in its energy needs.

What have we already achieved? 

Now, it was clear to me at that time that politicians were leading the transformation in relation to climate action. 


And what I’m afraid today is that I see and I got the opportunity to see at the Climate Summit, 


I see public opinions evolving very quickly.

I see cities, regions, assuming leadership. 

I see the business community and the finance community very active (…)

Call for action

And so, my strong appeal to political leaders here today is please do lead, do not follow. 


Because societies are moving, 

business communities are moving, 

local authorities are moving, 

the youth is moving. 

Strong ending

It is for political leaders to be able to take profit of this movement and to lead for us to be able to defeat climate change.

Read the full speech here: António Guterres, Roundtable with Heads of State & Government at COP25, 2 December 2019


Arouse the audience’s curiosity

[Stefan Zweig’s] best-known work, his most celebrated masterpiece, is certainly The World of Yesterday, Memories of a European (…). I, however, would like to quote an invaluable small volume, entitled An Appeal to Europeans, which is less well known, but in my view essential. It contains two articles and the proceedings of a number of conferences held in Italy in 1932, and they show that even then Zweig had already grasped the necessity of bringing about European unity, of establishing the United States of Europe.


If we learn about history only through the study of wars and conflicts, it can only drive us apart; 

if we combine this with a study of our European civilisation, however, we will discover that there are in fact far more things that unite us than divide us.

Surprise your audience

With that aim in view, [Stefan] Zweig made a range of practical proposals: you won’t believe this, but he even imagined a kind of Erasmus programme, decades before the idea had ever been conceived of, and emphasised the need to step up cultural exchanges and exchanges of university students, for example by providing grants.

Read the full speech here: David Maria Sassoli, Inauguration of the Stefan Zweig building, 12 December 2019


Epideictic speeches: lessons from the past

For the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of that decisive battle, in a true spirit of reconciliation, those who had formerly been sworn enemies came together in friendly commemorations either side of the Channel, putting past differences behind them.

Such reconciliation seldom happens overnight. It takes patience and time to rebuild trust, and progress often comes through small steps.

Read the full speech here: Queen Elizabeth II, Christmas broadcast 2019, 23 December 2019



Majesty, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for the invitation to join you today in commemoration. I stand before you, and before all Belgians, humbly and gratefully in my role as President of the Federal Republic of Germany.

I am aware that my speaking here today is not something to be taken for granted. Here in Bastogne. Here in Belgium, which was invaded by Germans twice in the last century (…).

Your country, Majesty, reached out its hand to us – across the graves from two World Wars. Belgium gave us the gift of its willingness for reconciliation. You opened the door for us to be part of a peaceful Europe. For that, we Germans are deeply grateful (…).

In the audience’s language(s)

Here in Belgium is where Europe’s heart beats. Here in Belgium, the spirit of Europe is alive, here the idea of Europe is alive, and here it is being lived out! Hier in België leeft de Europese geest, hier leeft de Europese idee en hier wordt deze geleefd!

Ici, en Belgique, l’esprit européen vit! Ici, l’idée européenne vit et est vécue! That is a promise for us and for our future (…).

Tricolons and crescendo of tricolons

The fact that today we are jointly engaging in this act of commemoration gives me hope. The path of reconciliation gives us hope.

Hope that in the future, our continent will continue to be united in peace and freedom.

Hope that together we can fight against new forms of resentment, racial hatred and nationalism, in the interests of democracy and freedom.

Hope that we will continue to pursue our common path. As good neighbours. As friends. As Europeans.

Read the full speech here: Frank-Walter Steinmeier, 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, 16 December 2019


Quote as a bridge between the speaker and the audience

There is a famous Yiddish saying, that ‘Words should be weighed, not counted'.

There are no speeches that we can give, no words of comfort or solace we can offer, that can ever take away the pain of what happened in Halle on Yom Kippur.

Read the full speech here: Ursula von der Leyen, ‘After Halle: from words to action against anti-Semitism', 10 December 2019


The art of storytelling

It’s a great pleasure to be here today, to help celebrate 50 years since the technology that has come to define our age was born.

Like a lot of the turning points that have shaped the world we live in, the importance of that moment wasn’t obvious at the time – not even to the people who made it happen. Charley Kline, who typed the first Internet message in 1969, has said that he didn’t realise at the time that he’d done anything special.

And the speech comes full circle

The future which Leonard Kleinrock and his colleagues imagined for the Internet in 1969, was a utopian vision, of a world where freedom and truth mattered more than power and money. But the Internet today is a part of our daily human lives – and human beings don’t live in Utopia. And only when we see the Internet for what it really is – when we see its dark side, as well as the good it can do – will we be able to guide it in a way that’s good for humanity.

It can be hard to give up on the promise of Utopia. But there’s also a message of hope. Our technological future isn’t written in the stars. It’s up to us to write that future – and we can do it in a way that puts humanity first.

Read the full speech here: Margrethe Vestager, Internets of the World Conference, Copenhagen, 5 December 2019


Whom do you quote?

Last week, during my very first trip as European Commissioner, I went to visit the Kalobeyei refugee settlement in Kenya. This visit impacted me greatly. I would like to start by quoting parts from a poem performed to us by Abol Malueth, a young girl living in the Kalobeyei refugee settlement in the Turkana region in Kenya:

“Dance, I dance in joy. Our dreams scatter, our future tatter, but still we rise. Away with lamentation, and fake victimization. With hopes springing high, still we rise.”

And the speech comes full circle

Let me take you back to Kenya (…).Today, once again, we are faced with record numbers of refugees in the world. Often, prospects for solutions are slim. But we are here, together facing the challenge and demonstrating global solidarity. With this, I firmly believe that, as Abol, the girl in Kenya, said, “still we rise.”

Read the full speech here: Jutta Urpilainen, Global Refugee Forum, 18 December 2019


Litany: the power of a list

(English translation below)

Die Erwärmung unserer Erde ist real. Sie ist bedrohlich. Sie und die aus der Erderwärmung erwachsenden Krisen sind von Menschen verursacht. Also müssen wir auch alles Menschenmögliche unternehmen, um diese Menschheitsherausforderung zu bewältigen (…).

Dabei können wir aufbauen auf dem, was uns schon immer stark gemacht hat: unseren Ideen, 

unserem Erfindergeist, 

unserem Fleiß 

und unserer Hartnäckigkeit, 

unseren Handwerkern, 

Ingenieuren und Fachkräften, 

unseren staatlichen und ehrenamtlichen Strukturen, 

unserer Art des Zusammenlebens in Familien und Vereinen, 

der Wertschätzung für diejenigen, die zum Beispiel in der Pflege für andere Menschen und mit anderen Menschen arbeiten.

Video der Rede auf Deutsch: Angela Merkel, Neujahrsansprache, 31. Dezember 2019

(In English)

Global warming is real. It is threatening. Global warming and the crisis it has triggered are man-made. So we have to do everything humanly possible to overcome this human challenge (…).

We can build on what has always made us strong: 

our ideas, 

our ingenuity, 

our hard work and tenacity, 

our craftsmen, 

engineers and specialists, 

our governmental and voluntary structures, 

our way of living together in families and associations,

the appreciation for those who work with other people and care for other people.

Lesen Sie die ganze Rede auf Deutsch: Angela Merkel, Neujahrsansprache, 31. Dezember 2019


Powerful metaphor

For me, nurturing peace is like planting and growing trees.

Just like trees need water and good soil to grow, peace requires unwavering commitment, infinite patience, and goodwill to cultivate and harvest its dividends.

Peace requires good faith to blossom into prosperity, security, and opportunity.

In the same manner that trees absorb carbon dioxide to give us life and oxygen, peace has the capacity to absorb the suspicion and doubt that may cloud our relationships.

In return, it gives back hope for the future, confidence in ourselves, and faith in humanity.

Read the full speech here: Abiy Ahmed Ali, Nobel lecture given by Nobel Peace prize laureate 2019: “Forging a durable peace in the Horn of Africa”, 10 December 2019

Be concrete, very concrete

Attaquer la pauvreté par les enfants c’est, je crois, extrêmement important. Donner à chaque enfant européen des droits: des droits à une école, des droits à une instruction, donner des droits à des soins médicaux, à – et c’est presque honteux de devoir le dire – à un repas convenable tous les jours. C’est honteux quand on sait qu’il y a des enfants, des milliers et des millions d’enfants en Europe qui n’ont pas ce droit-là.

Read the full speech here: Nicolas Schmit, Session plénière du Comité des Régions, 5 décembre 2019


Help your audience with clear signposting, using three questions

In 3 minutes, I would like to focus on 3 essential climate questions:

Why do we have to do more ?

How can we do more? and

What do we need to do?

Let's start with the why. Why do we have to do more? 

After the answer to the first question, guide your audience to the second question

In the face of these alarming trends, how can we do more? (…)

And after the answer to the second question, guide them to your third and last question

So my last question is: "What do we need to do?" (…)

Read the full speech here: Charles Michel, UN climate conference COP25, 2 December 2019


Start with a few words in your audience’s native language

To reach out to the Italian Senate

E’ un grande onore per me essere qui, a Palazzo Madama, per rivolgermi a voi e, tramite voi, a tutto il popolo italiano, per la mia ultima visita di quest’anno.

L'Italia è un partner fondamentale delle Nazioni Unite; il vostro paese dà un importante contributo alle operazioni di pace dell’ONU ed ospita alcune delle sue istituzioni.

Vi siamo molto grati per il vostro sostegno.

And I am very sorry, but I will have to go on in English.

Read the full speech here: António Guterres, Remarks on Multilateral Solutions to Global Challenges at the Italian Senate, 18 December 2019


To thank Chile and Spain for organizing and hosting the COP 25

Quiero agradecer a los gobiernos de Chile y de España por haber trabajado juntos en un espíritu de multilateralismo inclusivo para tornar a esta COP25 posible y felicitarlos por la impecable organización conseguida en un tan corto espacio de tiempo. Felicitaciones y muchas gracias.

Such solidarity and flexibility are what we need in the race to beat the climate emergency.

Read the full speech here: António Guterres, Opening ceremony of UN Climate Change Conference COP25, 2 December 2019