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For inspiration, peruse the great speeches of yesterday; for instruction, download "These Vital Speeches" today
I travel the world reading excerpts and showing clips from the great speeches in history.
It’s moving for speechwriters and other professional communicators to sit in a room together listening to Robert Kennedy and Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King.
“This is like church for communicators!” a teary-eyed writer once shouted from the back pew.
It’s also fun to try to extract lessons from historically important speeches to inform today’s workaday talks. (For instance, did you know that the Gettysburg Address fits perfectly into Monroe’s Motivated Sequence, a structure that works for any speech you’ll ever write?)
But inevitably after one of these rhetorical tent revivals, someone asks: Where can we find inspiring and instructive examples of the kinds of prosaic, workaday speeches that we write? Keynote speeches, hearing testimonies, ceremonial speeches—on subjects like sustainability, economics and education—delivered in such culturally stirring settings as conference centers and hotel ballrooms.
The answer is: These Vital Speeches, a dozen annual volumes containing the winners of every category of the Cicero Speechwriting Awards going back to 2007.
The latest volume alone, released this week to celebrate 2019 Cicero winners, contains speeches from 10 industries: agriculture, associations, banking, commerce and retail, education, energy, government, manufacturing, media and the military.
They’re all on contemporary topics, like healthcare, education, technology, diversity and the environment.
And none of these speeches was delivered on a battlefield or from the back of a Pullman car; they were given at an employee town all, on an investor call, at a university commencement.
And still, they illuminate brightly as utterly current examples of structure, argument, storytelling and style.
Leadership communicators in search of inspiration should peruse great speeches of history, regularly.
And they should scour These Vital Speeches, annually.
Download one edition, download them all—for free—at the Cicero Speechwriting Awards.