Dear speech-fans and -friends,


The European political cycle is in full speed now. What kind of speeches do we need?

You’ll find below the answers by two major European leaders and, by clicking under ‘Read more’ below, a series of good quotes and speeches delivered this past month.

Enjoy also the special literary bonus.


A reminder to speechwriters who want to see their work rewarded: this week is the last week to benefit from the early-bird tariff to enter your speeches in the Cicero awards. More here.


Best wishes, 

Great speeches,




A language everyone can understand

We will try to talk in a language that everyone can understand. And we will listen, too, and hear people’s concerns.

Read the full speech here: Christine Lagarde, Frankfurt and Europe in a new decade, 16 January 2020


Nice speeches won’t do – Great, smart, powerful speeches can

Epic geopolitical tensions, the climate crisis, global mistrust and the downsides of technology can jeopardize every aspect of our shared future. That is why commemorating the 75th anniversary with nice speeches won’t do.


See also smart and effective signposting with the “four horsemen” recurring theme

Today I want to speak to you in stark and simple terms about the challenges we face.

I see “four horsemen” in our midst — four looming threats that endanger 21st-century progress and imperil 21st-century possibilities.

The first horseman comes in the form of the highest global geostrategic tensions we have witnessed in years.

And after describing these four challenges – or horsemen:

We must address these four 21st-century challenges with four 21st-century solutions.

Let me take each in turn.

First, peace and security, that I mentioned. There are some signs of hope.

Read the full speech here: António Guterres, Remarks to the General Assembly on the Secretary-General's priorities for 2020, 22 January 2020

Epideictic speeches: Remembering the holocaust

I stand before you, grateful for this miracle of reconciliation, and I wish I could say that our remembrance has made us immune to evil.

Yes, we Germans remember. But sometimes it seems as though we understand the past better than the present.

Read the full speech here: Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Remembering the Holocaust: Fighting Antisemitism, at Yad Vashem, 23 January 2020

Note the number of languages into which this speech, delivered in English, is translated on the German Presidency website: German, English, Hebrew, French, Polish, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Turkish, Arabic.


Les mots peuvent paraître peu de choses, et vous voir tous ici rassemblés dit déjà tellement. Auraient-ils pu l'imaginer aujourd'hui ? Être unis pour nous souvenir, pour revivre et faire revivre. Je salue ce soir avec émotion les survivants de l'Holocauste qui sont parmi nous, les fils et les filles de déportés, les justes, les témoins et les passeurs qui font vivre à Jérusalem la flamme éternelle de la mémoire.

Read the full speech here: Emmanuel Macron, Commémoration du 75ème anniversaire de la libération du camp de concentration d'Auschwitz-Birkenau, 23 janvier 2020


Connect with your audience

In the period just before and after the referendum, I thought a lot about my time here in London. I say this not just because of my love for this country. But also because of what the United Kingdom has brought to Europe and the European Union.

What can you say that has not already been said

In a very understated British way, we do not always talk enough about this.

Read the full speech here: Ursula von der Leyen, Old friends, new beginnings: building another future for the EU-UK partnership, London School of Economics, 8 January 2020


Start with something unexpected …

A few years ago, the Danish TV show Borgen aired an episode that was all about the government choosing a new European Commissioner. With a nod to the famous tagline of the movie Alien, it was titled “In Brussels, no one can hear you scream.”

The idea, of course, was to suggest that Brussels – like space – is so distant from people’s everyday experience that nothing that goes on there really makes a difference. But my five years here in Brussels, as a European Commissioner, have proved beyond all doubt that this just isn’t true. Because Brussels – or rather, the European part of our democracy, when working synchronised with business, national governments and civil society – plays a vital part in Europe’s success.

I am looking very much forward to these new responsibilities. I am looking forward to get to know you and to learn a lot. I am looking forward to achieving jointly what is in the title of the conference: it is a new decade, we have global ambitions.

… yet relating to your topic

What I know though is that space is endlessly fascinating. Secondly, whatever is in space is relevant here on the planet and thirdly, that it takes money. Even with these three elements, there are still a number of things we need to do to. Therefore, important that you come together and build networks.

Read the full speech here: Margrethe Vestager, Space: grasping opportunities and building synergies, 21 January 2020


Whom do you quote … in Frankfurt

As the most famous son of Frankfurt, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, once put it:

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”

See also how the main theme (the city of Frankfurt) is woven into the speech and how the speech comes full circle

Read the full speech here: Christine Lagarde, Frankfurt and Europe in a new decade, 16 January 2020


Call for action

How many people live in institutions?

It is indeed worrying that there are no European statistics on this area.

We need this data.

We are working with Eurostat to get these statistics.

This is not as simple as it sounds.

Eurostat has to ask the Member States to provide the data.

The result is a complex discussion with national statistical offices about method and procedure.

But you can help: tell the Member States we need this data.

Tell them it is urgent.

It is not only about numbers, it is about peoples’ lives.

Read the full speech here: Helena Dalli, Towards Inclusion 2020: What is the vision of the future of deinstitutionalisation and role of EU?, 6 January 2020


Introducing a speaker new to the audience: all they need to know in just one minute

Thank you for this opportunity to be with you today! As this is the first time we meet, I’ll start with a little about myself.

I am a green-minded politician, a pragmatist, a father, proud of my native Lithuania and European to the core. I am from a generation that knows only Europe – my values are cooperation and respect, mutual understanding and an openness to the world. That’s what I lived by as Minister for Economy and innovation back home, and they are the values I brought to Brussels.

I studied in Lithuania and in the UK, and I have a Masters in European Studies from Maastricht. At the Commission my portfolio covers oceans, fisheries, and the environment, but I don’t think in terms of compartments. I take a holistic approach, because we have everything to gain from tackling these issues as broadly as possible. You can’t ignore the connection between the land and the sea. By having one Commissioner for both, we ensure that Europe tackles both together.

What is the one-thing you want the audience to remember

I am very pleased to be here today, because I want to make one thing very clear, right from the start of my mandate. And that is, that business and environment are also very closely linked. They have everything to gain from working together. In fact if they don't work together, neither of them works at all. They are two sides of the same coin.

That's always been my personal belief, but it’s now European policy as well (…). 

Clear signposting

Today I’m going to focus on three different elements, three different facets of the deal.

First of all, biodiversity. 

Translate numbers into tangible reality for your audience

Now I’m pretty sure that Valdis is going to share some very big numbers in a minute, but I have some impressive numbers too.

Sadly they are not numbers that people like, but they must be heard all the same. Numbers like, 'one million species at risk of extinction'. Numbers like a 76 percent decline in flying insect biomass since 1970, right here in Germany.

These numbers really matter. They show a state of affairs that has to change. They show that there is no more “business as usual” (…). 

Nature cleans our air, it delivers the oxygen we breathe. It cleans our water, keeps soils fertile, and pollinates our crops. It supplies many of the building blocks that industry needs, and it protects us from climate change.

When we lose nature, we don’t just lose forests in faraway places. These are our problems, here today, and they have to be solved here in Europe. They touch on how we live, how we farm, how we organise our economy.

Read the full speech here: Virginijus Sinkevičius, Startup Accelarator APX Springer Porsche, 8 January 2020



(English translation below)

La propagation du coronavirus ces jours-ci m’a donné envie de me replonger dans ‘La peste’ de Camus. Je me suis arrêtée sur ces quelques lignes qui parleront à tout rédacteur de discours ou orateur confronté avec des chiffres difficiles à saisir.

 Il essayait de rassembler dans son esprit ce qu'il savait de cette maladie. Des chiffres flottaient dans sa mémoire, et il se disait que la trentaine de grandes pestes que l'histoire a connues avait fait près de cent millions de morts. Mais qu'est-ce que cent millions de morts ? Quand on a fait la guerre, c'est à peine si on sait déjà ce que c'est qu'un mort. Et puisqu'un homme mort n'a de poids que si on l'a vu mort, cent millions de cadavres semés à travers l'histoire ne sont qu'une fumée dans l'imagination. Le docteur se souvenait de la peste de Constantinople qui, selon Procope, avait fait dix mille victimes en un jour. Dix mille morts font cinq fois le public d'un grand cinéma. Voilà ce qu'il faudrait faire. On rassemble les gens à la sortie de cinq cinémas, on les conduit sur une place de la ville et on les fait mourir en tas pour y voir un peu clair. Au moins, on pourrait mettre alors des visages connus sur cet entassement anonyme. Mais, naturellement, c'est impossible à réaliser, et puis qui connaît dix mille visages ?


The spread of the coronavirus these days made me feel like going back to ‘The plague’ by Camus. I was struck by these lines that will resonate with all speechwriters and speakers faced with numbers difficult to grasp

He tried to recall what he had read about the disease. Figures floated across his memory, and he recalled that some thirty or so great plagues known to history had accounted for nearly a hundred million deaths. But what are a hundred million deaths? When one has served in a war, one hardly knows what a dead man is, after a while. And since a dead man has no substance unless one has actually seen him dead, a hundred million corpses broadcast through history are no more than a puff of smoke in the imagination. The doctor remembered the plague at Constantinople that, according to Procopius, caused ten thousand deaths in a single day. Ten thousand dead made about five times the audience in a biggish cinema. Yes, that was how it should be done. You should collect the people at the exits of five picture-houses, you should lead them to a city square and make them die in heaps if you wanted to get a clear notion of what it means. Then at least you could add some familiar faces to the anonymous mass. But naturally that was impossible to put into practice; moreover, what man knows ten thousand faces?