When we recall the most memorable speeches in history, what comes to mind? What is the recipe for a truly great speech? For starters, the best orators know precisely how to inspire their audience, how to move their very souls and instill in them the courage to act and achieve great things. The language itself may be simple, and repetition is one tool used, but the actual words employed, and the delivery command great power; speeches can literally change the world.
A few examples then of great speeches and speechmakers.
Most of us will remember The Gettysburg Address, Patrick Henry asking to be given ‘liberty or death’, and also Martin Luther King when he shared his dream with the crowds. Let us not forget a certain Winston Churchill inspiring a battered nation to defeat the Nazis with his vow to ‘fight on the beaches…fight on the landing grounds, we shall never surrender!’. Who can overlook President Kennedy entreating Post-War America to ‘ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country’. To the list of charismatic leaders and orators, we should add Caesar, Cicero, and General MacArthur (“old soldiers never die, they just fade away”). Christian bigots might also argue that Christ’s ‘Sermon on the Mount’ merits a place in any ‘greatest’ list.
To this long list, we now need to add Oprah Winfrey’s stunning address at the Golden Globes in the past week. Far from being a stranger to the American public, billionaire celebrity, chat show hostess, progressive and philanthropist, Oprah Winfrey moved the entire world with incredible wisdom, emotional depths and timeless (yet relative) truths delivered over several unforgettable minutes.
For the past week, the progressive/ liberal media has sung Oprah’s praises at every possible occasion, filling newspapers, blogs and other social media with millions of fawning comments, accredited articles and insights. At the very least, the liberal media now want Oprah to be declared president in 2020 in an uncontested election. This would be a good start, but is it this enough? Could she not be also declared a living saint? We certainly believe so. Hers was a speech that a beleaguered world needed to hear; her words were like fresh oxygen to a deep-sea diver whose tanks had just emptied.
One white male who has been doing way too much diving and emptying of his tanks into the deep is Harvey Weinstein. In the wake of one particularly disgusting allegation levelled at him, hundreds of millionaire actresses suddenly remembered that, they too, had been abused by the movie mogul. “Me Too!” they tweeted in unison, after having kept their silence for many years, in a way that could in no way result in these victims being labelled ‘enablers’. One brilliant womyn then came up with the idea to combine the words “me” and “too” with a hashtag so that many other non-enablers could use social media to tell the world how terrible is the patriarchy and men in general.
In no way jumping onto a pink bandwagon full of pussy-hats, Oprah’s Golden Globes speech captured the mood of the #MeToo! nation.
As the potentially hostile audience of rich progressive celebrities waited to hear what Oprah had to say, she took an enormous risk and bravely launched into her oratory. For several timeless minutes of history, the audience cooed and applauded as they were treated to descriptions of ‘a culture broken by brutally powerful men’ and Oprah’s declaration that ‘For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men, but their time is up.” CNN Entertainment was there to record history being made and reported:
The audience rose to their feet and remained standing as Winfrey sent a message to “all the girls” watching her speech.
“I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say “Me too” again.”
The obvious question also comes to mind: where does Oprah’s speech rank in any Top 10 list of greatest speeches?
Context is everything. Churchill’s speech resonated because the Nazis seemed unstoppable, with it seemingly only a matter of time before Hitler declared victory over Britain. But, stirring as Churchill’s oratory surely was, we should be careful not to exaggerate or forget certain facts. The son of conservative peer, Lord Randolph Churchill, Winston was a highly privileged white male who enjoyed a life of luxury typical of the landed gentry. He was also a near-alcoholic who consumed vast quantities of fine wine and port; so, he was probably drunk when he promised to take the fight to the Nazis. He was also a white male as were Kennedy, Cicero and the rest.
Oprah’s only real competition is nonviolent freedom fighter, Martin Luther King. However, as a male, he sits just below billionaire Oprah on the oppression scale even though technically he was oppressed with extreme prejudice. However, he was a male and there is no evidence of King transitioning to a different gender or no gender at all. On any objective basis, therefore, Oprah’s Golden Globes speech must go down as the greatest in herstory. And, no, that is not a spelling mistake.