Featuring . . . A Figure Of Speech


In this week’s issue (June 20), I’ve written a wee piece about Churchill’s “Their Finest Hour” speech.

It came at a critical juncture in World War II. Many credit it with galvanising British resolve ahead of the Battle of Britain.

At the time, many of our mainland European allies had fallen. America hadn’t joined us yet, and things were looking a bit desperate.

That’s why Churchill urged us to fight back, whatever the odds, against the evils of the Nazi regime. His message was to stand up for what we believed in.

It made me think about the power of speeches.

There aren’t many politicians these days whose public performances blow us away or inspire generations to come.

Most of us these days would probably quote movies if we were asked for memorable speeches. A few of us might talk about classics like Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, or Nelson Mandela’s “I Am Prepared To Die” speech.

Changed the world

Historically, there have been many great monologues that really have changed the world.

George Washington’s resignation speech is one such example.

It was his humility that would see him refuse a third term as the President. In honour of his choice, US law subsequently prevented any President from serving more than two terms.

Churchill had another powerful message in his “We Shall Fight Them On The Beaches” speech, once again shoring up the battered morale of Britain.

Barack Obama gave a speech in 2004 that would pave the way for his future role as President.

At a Convention in the U.S., he refused to see differences in his country:

“There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America . . .

“We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.”

Powerful stuff. Barack usually contributed heavily to his own speeches. Reputedly this one was no exception.



The movies have seen some crackers, too.

Like Russell Crowe’s defiant Gladiator speech, where he declares his intentions to the evil Emperor, played by Joaquin Phoenix: “I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”

Words still matter

Gives me goosebumps every time I see it.

And, for all its historical inaccuracies, the film “Braveheart” sees a blockbuster from William Wallace — famously played by Mel Gibson — as he rouses his troops about the need to fight for freedom.

All day, every day, especially at the moment, we’re seeing people gathering support and sympathy for their causes through the power of words.

It’s good to know that in the technological age, there’s still nothing that motivates people as much as a passionately delivered monologue.

Words still matter!

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Alex Corlett

Alex is the "Friend's" Features Editor, working with the talented Features Team to bring you everything from cryptic crosswords to financial advice, knitting patterns to international travel and inspirational real life stories. Always on the hunt for a new feature idea, Alex also enjoys cycling and loves a good tea room.