On December 4, 1783, George Washington said farewell to his officers. The war had been won, and Washington was preparing to return to his private life (and to the pleasures of gardening, it should be added … his role as an avid plantsman merits more attention than it gets, but that’s a topic for another day).
Speechwriters can learn much by the tone of this farewell:
“With a heart full of love and gratitude I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable.”
Dec 2, 1927, was a big day for the US auto industry. Henry Ford put his new car on display throughout the country. What was new? The Model A came in colors – replacing the Model T, which came only in black.
It looks like this week will present another high visibility day for US auto makers. As a speechwriter and speech coach, I’d have many words of professional advice to help the Big 3 prepare for their remarks in DC.
But as a citizen, I’ll offer just two words. When you plan your trip to ask for money, car pool.
After all: It’s not what you say … it’s how you say it.
Here’s a bit of banking trivia:
December 1, 1909, saw the nation’s first banking institution to offer a Christmas Club for regular savings. The Carlisle Trust Company (Carlisle, PA) gets the credit for creating this special-purpose savings plan … which, for years, remained one of the most popular ways for American families to accumulate funds.
On this date in 1874, Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born in Oxfordshire, England.
As Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the difficult days of World War II, Churchill rallied his nation with his words. Some say he mobilized the English language and sent it off to war.
Here’s the lesson for speechwriters: He made words work.
One of my favorite quotes from Churchill? “I have never accepted what many people have kindly said, namely that I inspired the nation. It was the nation … that had the lion heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.”
I’ve just returned from coaching executives in Europe. A few words of advice I’d like to pass along to speechwriters:
1) Make sure you have a passport ready. If an international speechwriting assignment comes along, you don’t want to be caught with an expired passport. You need to be ready to meet your clients – whenever, wherever.
2) Brush up your foreign language skills. I used to be fluent in German. My current German skills are … well, they’re far/far less than fluent. But, I can hold a pleasant-enough conversation in German, and clients appreciate this. (Take heart: The bar is low! Americans have notoriously weak foreign language skills … so international executives will notice and value your efforts to speak their languages.)
3) Pay special attention to audience analysis. Writing a speech to be given in China … or Spain … or Germany? Within the past month, I’ve had to handle these specialized speechwriting assignments – and by taking the time to understand each audience, I was able to serve my clients well.
It’s a big world out there. Do what it takes to be ready for any assignment.
On this date in 1963, President John F. Kennedy was on his way to deliver a speech with these words:
“We in this country, in this generation, are – by destiny rather than choice – the watchmen on the walls of world freedom.”
Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas – on the way to give that speech.
The words still resonate.
November 20, 1863:
“I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours, as you did in two minutes.” (Edward Everett, principal speaker at Gettysburg, in a letter to Abraham Lincoln)
On this date in history (November 19, 1863), Abraham Lincoln gave a few brief remarks to dedicate a national cemetery in Gettysburg, PA.
I’m reading an excellent book about the Gettysburg Address … THE GETTYSBURG GOSPEL: THE LINCOLN SPEECH THAT NOBODY KNOWS. Written by Gabor Boritt (director, Civil War Institute, Gettysburg College), it provides extraordinary insight into a speech that has been quoted by popes, presidents, public school teachers, grade school children, aspiring politicians … and almost everyone else.
You will learn much from this book. Perhaps more important, you will never forget the lessons it shares.
Working on any international speeches for this week? You might be able to use this bit of history:
On November 16, 1776, the Dutch garrison on the island of St. Eustatius (in the West Indies) fired a salute to the American flag being flown by a U.S. ship … marking the first time a foreign nation had recognized our flag.
American Education Week is fast approaching. You might be able to leverage its high visibility to give your speeches a stronger hook … or gain more media attention for your message.
Want to speak about opportunities in math/science careers? This is an “evergreen” topic … meaning, it’s good anytime. But, if you address this topic during American Education Week, you’ll make it more newsworthy.
Talking about the importance of “green” education? You’ll make more of an impression if you give your presentation during this week.
Appearing on a panel about the economy? Stress the need for financial education in our schools … and you’ll gain extra exposure for your message.