Category: Speeches

On Fear–and Freedom

I will admit it: Motivation was harder to find this week.

So I wanted to post some helpful and hopeful words in the week since the attacks in Paris. My heart aches for the city. And for Beirut. And for Nigeria.

But I woke up this morning, saw the news, and now my heart hurts for Bamako, Mali.

So many places affected by such senseless violence. And I thought: What inspiration could I possibly offer when so many people are feeling such grief and fear?

My thoughts went to the first Inaugural Address by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt:

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

Courtesy C-SPAN

And to the “Freedom From Fear” speech by Aung San Suu Kyi:

Fearlessness may be a gift but perhaps more precious is the courage acquired through endeavor, courage that comes from cultivating the habit of refusing to let fear dictate one’s actions, courage that could be described as ‘grace under pressure’–grace which is renewed repeatedly in the face of harsh, unremitting pressure.

Enrich your intellect and spirit by reading her full speech.

These speeches–from two different people, times and places–remind us that periods of great trial are nothing new. They also remind us to not give in to the grief and fear we rightly feel.

Read or watch the speeches. Heed the advice for the days, weeks and months to come.

Essay Contests, Time Limits–and Lessons Learned.

People have remarked to me over the years about the perceived impediment of word or time limits when writing speeches, and have asked me if those limits make my job harder.

Honestly, I smile inside every time the topic is mentioned.

Part of the letter announcing the contest. Yes, I still have it after all of these years!

And I have Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., to thank for that.

Here’s the story.

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Wednesday Word: Don’t Wing It.

Today’s Wednesday Word is a word of advice.

If you have to deliver a speech or a presentation–no matter how big or small–please know what you’re going to say. Don’t wing it.

Or you may end up like Governor John Kasich of Ohio–a smart man who nevertheless decided that the best way to  announce his presidential run would be to opt against a prepared text, and instead speak more or less “off the cuff” for 43 minutes.

That is not a practice to emulate.

Courtesy C-SPAN

I understand the impulse to “ditch the script.” People in the spotlight–particularly politicians–seem so scripted. Even “Reality TV” follows a script. Audiences hunger for genuine people who will speak truthfully from the heart, and speakers want to be able to deliver.

But use of a prepared speech isn’t a signal to the audience that the speaker is fake and insincere. The prepared speech is a guide for the speaker, and to the speaker’s audience as well.

A prepared speech is like road directions: it tells you where you need to go without veering off on every side road that may look interesting. Similarly, a prepared speech helps you make the points you want to make, while making sure the audience can follow the ideas you wish to express. Simply going off the cuff in order to seem more authentic is not only a less than ideal way persuade or inform an audience, but also itself can be seen as a ploy.

So when you have to deliver a speech or presentation, know what you’re going to do. “Going with your gut” is neither a game plan nor a genuine way to connect with your audience. Plan and practice what you will say.

Don’t wing it.

And that’s your Wednesday Word.

First Lady Michelle Obama: Rising Above the Noise.

First Lady Michelle Obama recently delivered a deeply moving commencement address at Tuskegee University.

The First Lady certainly would understand if you missed it. After all, she delivered the address on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. As “Mom-in-Chief,” I think she would give you a pass.

That said–her address is excellent. Read the transcript, or watch below.

Courtesy of tuskegeevirtual

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Jackie Robinson: Willing to Fight for It.

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Courtesy of MLB.com

I believe in the human race. I believe in the warm heart. I believe in man’s integrity. I believe in the goodness of a free society. And I believe that the society can remain good only as long as we are willing to fight for it — and to fight against whatever imperfections may exist.

Free Minds and Free Hearts Work, Robinson’s 1952 recorded essay for the Edward R. Murrow’s radio series, “This I Believe.”

Most Americans think of April 15 as Tax Day. And of course, many of us were indeed busy with taxes on that day–and on that night. But it was “Jackie Robinson Day” in the world of Major League Baseball; a day to honor a man who fought to desegregate American life by desegregating one of America’s greatest pastimes.

He played ball, but he knew it was more than a game.

Since baseball season is in the swing of things in earnest, I decided to post Jackie Robinson’s Hall of Fame speech upon his induction in 1962.

Some games are bigger than the score.

Courtesy of MLB.com

Lend Me Your Ears: Beware the Ides of March

Yesterday, I gave you a bit of math. Today, I offer you a bit of English Lit as I present today’s speech. One of the English languages most famous speeches is actually part of a play: Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar.

So behold, on this day, the Ides of March–Marc Antony’s speech eulogizing Caesar.

Read it through, and note the phrases that are mainstays of our lexicon:

“The evil that men do lives after them…”

“Sterner stuff”

“The most unkindest cut of all”

Speak well–and watch your back!

Ida B. Wells-Barnett: Bearing Witness

As you know, February is Black History Month. I celebrate this month by finding or re-discovering great speeches delivered by African American men and women.

One of those men and women is also one of my heroines, Ida B. Wells-Barnett: teacher, writer and fearless fighter for justice.


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