We’re expecting a big speech tonight from President Trump. So, that’s gotten me thinking about speeches. (Not politics, don’t worry.)
Busy political speechwriters can bang out a twenty-minute address in about an hour, according to one such expert on Quora. But those remarks tend to be perfunctory, referencing pre-approved talking points at a business-as-usual style event.
If you show up at a lot of casual meet-and-greets, those kinds of speeches are a real time saver.
But every time someone steps up to deliver even semi-formal remarks, it’s an opportunity. To be human and transparent, to declare a value you embrace, to encourage people to act, to think, to see themselves as part of something bigger.
After winning the Golden Globe for best supporting actress in the film If Beale Street Could Talk, Regina King did just that when she used her brief acceptance speech to include a call to action.
“I am making a vow and it’s going to be tough, to make sure that everything I produce is going to be is fifty percent women,” she said. “I challenge anyone out there who is in a position of power… and not just in our industry, in all industries, I challenge you to challenge yourselves and stand with us in solidarity. And do the same.”
Turns out, her remarks were not planned.
“For a quick second, I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to say,” King told CBS This Morning.
“But the most amazing thing was as soon as I walked off that stage, what I started receiving from men…” she said, citing immediate promises of support from mega-star Tyler Perry and emails from others, like producer Bert Salke, casting director John Levey, and director/producer Michael Listo. “It was all hands on deck and that’s how it starts,” she said.
It is, indeed.
But believe it or not, the speech I’ve listened to the most has been The Saint Crispin’s Day address from Shakespeare’s Henry V, a set of remarks delivered by a newly mature king to a group of worried soldiers who were facing impossible odds in a battle with the French. They were also suspicious of King Harry’s leadership chops.
It has all the elements of a perfect speech—including singling out people for recognition—but it may be the greatest rallying cry of all time.
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be rememberèd—
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
I once joined a firm whose culture I didn’t…understand, and I watched the Kenneth Branagh version at my desk every day for three months before I ventured out to give it my best shot. It always made me feel less alone.
It gets me every time. (And, it has the added benefit of a Christian Bale cameo, who evidently has a completely different speech-making style.)
I would have equally enjoyed a Denzel version, but that’s fine.
But thanks to Regina King, I’ve got another go-to speech to give me a boost of courage. She joins Oprah and Frances McDormand as two recent award recipients who walked the fine line of acknowledging the industry they loved while asking everyone to do and be better.
If you’re looking for other speeches to give you an inspiration infusion, try AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson’s emotional remarks on how he discovered his blind spot on race. I also loved PayPal CEO Dan Schulman’s stirring reminder to new Rutgers graduates of the moral obligation to repair the world. “We all have the responsibility to follow thoughtfully and resist conscientiously,” he said. “The choice between profit and purpose is a false duality.”
And when I am overwhelmed by the cruelty of the world, I listen to Martin Luther King’s eulogy for Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley, the four little girls who were murdered during the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. King took on government inaction, political hypocrisy, and systemic racism while offering peace to a grieving community.
“God still has a way of ringing good out of evil,” he said. “History has proven over and over again that unmerited suffering is redemptive.”
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|Author Reniqua Allen explored the American dream of homeownership by interviewing more than 75 black people in their 20s and 30s in different cities across the country. Turns out, their education and and experience weren’t enough to overcome the kinds of barriers that have been in place for generations. “They were frustrated by the reality of limited opportunities — and also frustrated that many people, including black people from different generations, didn’t understand why we couldn’t just pull up our pants, find a job with our fancy degrees and be happy,” she writes. “[W]e’re still tired of having to prove our humanity and trying to make sure that America makes good on its promise.”|
|New York Times|
|Looking ahead to Sundance|
|The Sundance Film Festival has elevated several films with strong race narratives in recent years like Sorry To Bother You and Blindspotting. This year, expect to see themes of Indigenous history and immigration, along with a much-anticipated update of Richard Wright’s 1940 novel Native Son, with Rashid Johnson directing his first feature film. Colorlines has a list.|
The Woke Leader
|Donde sea que estés, está bien|
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|Business of Fashion|
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|This is one of the many important tidbits gleaned from this interview with poet, professor, and 2011 National Book Award-winner Nikki Finney, a thoughtful and dedicated South Carolinian who has mined her life experience for rich insights. She discusses her upcoming book, Lovechild’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry, due in 2020. One poem is dedicated to her father, the first black justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court. “My mother gave birth to me but my father gave birth to my sense of justice and fairness,” she writes.|