Words bite back

ONE national newspaper has begun looking for the greatest speech of the 20th century. Those selected include, obviously, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and Martin Luther King. The chosen speeches came at a time in history when strong

ONE national newspaper has begun looking for the greatest speech of the 20th century.

Those selected include, obviously, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

The chosen speeches came at a time in history when strong voices were needed. Each of their speeches showed authority and passion.

They were the speeches of men leading the way: whether that be Roosevelt's on his New Deal or Martin Luther King's pleading in the civil rights campaign, or Churchill as war-time leader.


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These days we seem to lack public speeches or public speakers who can really rouse an audience: those that can deliver a speech that really does capture public attention.

It's a shame.

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The public speech can convey so much.

Perhaps, however, the speech-makers and speech writers of today are too concerned about spin and word-bites.

Even on a local level there do not seem to be the opportunities for the delivery of a rousing public speech: one that will make a difference and delivered with vehemence.

We do, however, get some surprising comments on occasions from our elected councillors. It is not speech-making as such, but really, off-the-cuff remarks.

For example, there was a councillor this week who claimed that the public was ignorant, and the one earlier this month who said other members were becoming hysterical over a particular issue.

In both cases that is clearly not true - and not quite the right thing to say

But it shows that there is a lack of an occasion when public speaking can come into its own. It is a pity.

As for the greatest speech of the 20th century? We will know in the weeks to come.

There still seems much to learn about public speaking.

And in spite of all the modern equivalents there is nothing to compare with Shakespeare.

Just remember the words he put into the mouth of, say, Henry V. Shakespeare was, after all, the early exponent of spin and word-bites, but done in such an eloquent way.

As he said: Once more to the breach.

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