Most of our copywriting, copyediting, proofreading and translation work is for content that’s meant to be read. Once in a while, we get the chance to work on speeches and it’s such a treat. It’s one thing to see your words on the page. It’s another thing entirely to hear them spoken and watch a crowd react to them. It’s one of the great rushes in our business actually.
So while some people take breaks from the day watching cat videos or setting their fantasy sports team roster (okay, we do those things too), we like to watch history’s great speeches and pick up a tip or two for the next time an oratorical assignment gets thrown our way.
Here are five of our faves:
Ronald Reagan’s Endorsement of Barry Goldwater (29 minutes)
Coming from Hollywood, Reagan clearly knew how to deliver a line. And he delivers a few good ones here. Our favourite is “this time gives no choice between peace and war; only fight and surrender.”
But what makes this speech a great one is the cadence and the vocabulary. He speaks to his audience like they’re intelligent. He doesn’t pause for cheap applause. He lays his argument out and trusts that people will get it. And even though Goldwater lost the election, this speech went down as the catalyst for the re-rise of Richard Nixon and the Republicans just four years later.
Tom Hanks after winning Best Actor for Philadelphia (4 minutes)
The courage Hanks had to take on this role in the first place was an inspiration. But then to follow that up with a speech like this in a time like that was off the charts. And even with the gravity of the topic he still managed to toss in a few little laughs.
Winston Churchill will never surrender (12 minutes)
Imagine you’re the once-proud Great Britain. You’ve ruled the world for 200 years and you just had your clocks cleaned by the Germans. How do you motivate an entire nation shell-shocked beyond belief?
These days, you might get a bunch of yelling and screaming and finger-pointing. But Churchill took a different approach. Calmly and rationally, he reminded Britons what made them who they are. It was just the right mix of somber and riling. And it worked.
Martin Luther King’s Dream (5 minutes)
No list of great speeches can exist without this one on it. Obviously, the message is important, but consider the way Dr. King invites the audience to share in his vision. The brilliance of this speech is the way he turns rage into hope. It would’ve been easy to stand up there and (rightfully) bemoan inequality. But he looks past it to a better world and brings everyone with him.
William Wallace (The blue paint)
Were those words actually uttered on the battlefield? Who cares? They’re amazing.