We are launching a new course on speechwriting this week. To mark the occasion we asked some of our speechwriting and public speaking coaches to share their favourite speeches. Here are three of former TV journalist John Holland’s most-loved ones:
Robert F. Kennedy’s remarks announcing Martin Luther King’s assassination; April 4, 1968
RFK’s words were brief – a shade under five minutes – simple, eloquent and in one instance intensely personal. Written during a 45-minute plane ride and delivered late at night on the back of a flatbed truck in the largest black ghetto in Indianapolis.
The streets of America were tense; riots and further violence threatened to erupt. Kennedy spoke to America’s racial divisions. He appealed to the country’s better angels.
His short, sharp use of poetic reference and repetition made it memorable even if its non-violent message fell largely on deaf ears. He predicted King’s assassination “would not be the end of violence.” Kennedy was shot dead two months later.
Educator and author Ken Robinson’s TED talk from February 2006 on creativity in children’s education
Laying out a simple three-point structure with self-effacing humour, pithy anecdotes and spot-on, spare statistical evidence, Robinson held his audience rapt on the flawed approach to educating society’s future guardians.
While the power of his oratory was dented by speaking too quickly – and for a normally attention-sapping 15 minutes – he knew when to slow down to catch up the laggards in his audience.
His main points were made with punchy precision and humour, anchoring the key takeaway that creativity is as important as literacy and that kids want and need to try things out without being criticised for it in advance.
Axel Scheffler, illustrator of children’s books, at 2018 British Book Illustrator of the Year Awards
German-born Scheffler (‘The Gruffalo’, ‘Room on the Broom’) won’t win many votes for his thin-pitched voice, which doesn’t quite match the edgy power of what he’s written.
But, like Bob Dylan or Neil Young in concert, the written words leap off the page with world-weary yet heartfelt unrequited love, anger, fear and sadness. With Brexit looming, it is something of an obituary-in-waiting for his 36 years living in Britain.
It’s a political speech for political times. An impassioned, punctuated call for reasoned political decisions in the UK, lest ‘the dragons’, as Scheffler concluded, threaten to devour his adopted country.