Before becoming a freelance writer in 1995, I was the manager of creative services under six federal cabinet ministers. Reluctant to discard the pen completely to conduct the harmonies of talented staff, I wrote speeches as well. The Speechwriter's Newsletter (Ragan Communications, Inc.) once published my philosophy about the craft:
With a B.A. in theatre, I use role playing to add dimension to my story. What does that audience want to hear and how do they want the speaker to relate the message? A writer should consider the audience as well as the client. It's a question of achieving the right balance a collaboration between the one who tells the story and the silent partner who crafts the plot.
My idol? Winston Churchill, who embodied all one could hope for in an orator. He was a fine writer with an actor's instinct for phrasing and dramatic effect.
My favourite "live" speech experience? Margaret Thatcher's eloquent and dignified resignation in the House of Commons in 1990. Few have ever left high office with a knife more deeply planted in the back, yet with head held so proudly aloft.
My second-favourite "live one"? A long taxi ride in the Cuban countryside with one of Fidel Castro's epic sermons on the radio. Think what you will of his message, he's a theatrical genius who draws the listener in with every well-timed whisper... then delivers a knockout punch as his chapters thunder to conclusion. This is symphonic oration with distinct movements, tempos and accent marks.
My fantasy speakers' roundtable, with lively banter and reminiscences over dinner? The guests would be Churchill, Castro, former Texas governor Ann Richards, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Sir Wilfred Laurier, Canadian Senator Anne Cools, Martin Luther King Jr. and Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, as long as someone else is footing the bill! These would be difficult acts to follow, but here are some quotes from humbler efforts by yours truly. (Due to restrictions of copyright law, I can't post drafts or podium versions in their entirety.)
"Cinema is an international language that transcends all boundaries cultural, political or religious. It has acquired a sometimes overwhelming power a compelling force that can rivet us in our seats while opening our hearts to the experiences of others. Through the eyes of film-makers, we gain tremendous insight into the traditions and lives of people in lands both far and near. Doors open, veils disappear, and by the end of the first reel, we sense that we are not that different from one another after all."
For the Hon. Sheila Finestone, former Secretary of State for Multiculturalism, at the European Community Film Festival
"We have taken steps towards the day when people who have disabilities will assume their rightful place in society at all levels... We must ensure, for the benefit of everyone, that our resources are used to the fullest. Canada's three million disabled citizens have much to offer in every sphere of activity. We cannot allow their contributions to be recorded in history with the invisible ink of exclusion."
For the Hon. Robert de Cotret, former Secretary of State,
National Access Awareness Week
"Embracing our heritage is an eloquent expression of the Canadian dream. It forms the lifeblood of our nationhood. It creates building blocks, not stumbling blocks. We have a mission to serve as an example to troubled nations that look to us for inspiration when they think of freedom and human rights... The task that faces all of us won't be an easy one. Yet I can think of little in life more exhausting than idleness and apathy. To those who ask if a land of opportunity, equality and fairness is a dreamworld, I say: When we cease to dream, we cease to grow."
For the Hon. Sheila Finestone, former Secretary of State
for Multiculturalism, House of Commons
"There is a tremendous level of stress associated with managing the pressures of family and work. Many workers are expected to do overtime a term I would like to see changed to 'non-family time'... Canadians need a fresh partnership with the government to meet the challenges of raising healthy, well-educated children. Last month, Minister Rock addressed the CMA, stressing the need for collaboration in maintaining the health care bargain between Canadians and their government. As you well know, bargain in this case means 'pact' and not a cheap ride... Perhaps, even in our lifetime, child health will no longer be a matter of great concern... instead, a matter of great pride."
For the Annual Conference of the Canadian Association
of Pediatric Hospitals, Halifax
"Nothing we can say today will bring your ancestors back. However, we can promise them that their memory will always be cherished and commemorated. By remembering those who suffered in previous generations, we may help to ensure that our future generations witness no such horror. The Republic of Armenia lives on in your hearts and your souls, and therein lies her freedom."
For the Hon. Alan Redway, former Minister of Housing,
72nd anniversary of Armenian Genocide
Making the Long Road Back to First Place a Little Shorter
"During the past decade, while Canada focused on deficit reduction and tax relief, we got outfoxed in one vital area. We were building upon other nations' discoveries, but coming up with too little homegrown research and development in technology. Our current and future generations of knowledge workers can't afford to sit on the fence as the Parade of Innovation marches past... Innovation has to become part of the Canadian mindset. Our goal is to blend one more culture into the Canadian mosaic that is, the Culture of Innovation."
"...In the 50's, Marlon Brando played a washed-up boxer in On the Waterfront. He lamented, 'I coulda been a contendah. I could been somebody.' Ladies and gentlemen, neither you nor I can conceive of Canada as a could have been, a might have been or a has been. In the opinion of global neighbours, our common trait as Canadians is that we're 'polite.' Well then, let's politely barge our way through the ranks and regain our rightful spot in the Innovation Arena. Let's not lose out on the chance to be the contender of choice again."
For the Hon. Brian Tobin, former Minster of Industry,
generic speech to university audiences
Productivity and Innovation: Co-Authors of Our Success Story in the 21st Century
"It's innovation that drives the engine of productivity. It means work 'smarter' not faster or longer. During much of the 90's, life for the labour force was often far from ideal. The predicted Leisure Society was extinct before it even arrived! Corporate North America became so obsessed with doing more with less, that many people did almost everything with next to nothing. Let's now give thanks for the winds of change. Many labour strategies of the past decade are already being rethought in these early years of the new century. Let us never again forget the 'humanity' in our human resources."
"...After the release of the film Dead Poets Society, 'Carpe diem' became one of the slogans of the times. Many a political speech or motivational seminar now draws to a close with that wise Roman counsel. But I find it too restrictive. Canadians can do more than seize the day. We've got the tools to reach past the coming decade."
For the Hon. John Manley, former Minister of Industry,
to the Empire Club, Toronto
Golden Jubilee Royal Visit, 2002
"How fitting it is that our visit should be launched in Canada's newest territory, Nunavut. I count it among the highlights of my Jubilee year that we are the first members of the Canadian Royal Family to be hosted in your newly born homeland... Whether your saga is narrated by the great storytellers, or through history books, it is a compelling account of migration, resourcefulness, and instinct for survival. You have created harmony with the environment one that you regard as a gift to be cherished, and not an inheritance to be squandered."
"...Nunavut bears a name you chose. It speaks of your ancestors, Canada's original citizens. It speaks of your Elders, whose lifelong struggles form the rock on which you build a bright future. And it speaks of your youth, to whom you entrust that future... I thank you for being an important part of my Jubilee celebrations, and offer best wishes for the years to come by saying 'Nakurmiit ammalu quviasugitsi.' "
For Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Queen of Canada, to the
Legislative Assembly of Nunavut, Iqaluit
"Since my first visit in 1951, I have met people whose genuine warmth, and openness to the world, have been a source of pride to me... I renewed friendships with Canadians of every walk and way of life, with my lifelong heroes Canada's veterans and with thousands of children bearing bouquets. Like the flowers in their outstretched hands, my friendship with Canadians has blossomed through five exciting decades as your Queen."
For Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Ottawa
"Years ago, we used to be able to relax in our recliners, watching TV news reports about racial tension in other countries. But now, the news items have a more local ring. Rather than airing foreign coverage, the TV projects a mirror image instead."
"...The naysayers irritate me as much, I'm sure, as they irritate you. Yet I feel oddly amused when I listen closely to these whiners. 'We're not anti-black. We're just pro-white.' Or how about those who have a menu-du-jour for every social problem? 'Unemployment? well, blame the immigrants for taking our jobs!' 'High welfare costs? well, those damn immigrants are too lazy to work.' Obviously, they can't get their facts straight, or their lies."
For the Hon. Sergio Marchi, former Minister of Immigration,
to students of the Board of Education, Etobicoke
"To Stanley Knowles, the human condition was never to be viewed as a burden; rather, as a challenge to those in a position of power to confront and surmount. He knew that political adversaries need not be enemies. He knew, better than most, not only how to count votes, but how to make votes count. His words were tools, rather than weapons, and his word was a bond. His success was not built on flights of oratory, Mr. Speaker. His language was plain, not flowery. He did not work to improve life for the 'economically disadvantaged.' He was proud to stand up for poor people, as there is no shame in being poor. There is only shame when poverty is ignored."
House of Commons, Ottawa
Pierre Elliot Trudeau
"Pierre Trudeau, the visionary, inspired political allies and opponents alike to shape a nation that would evolve towards an ideal a Just Society, rich in cultural heritage and promising opportunity for youth and adults alike... Educated in four countries, and an enthusiastic global traveller, Pierre Trudeau stood firm and tall in his belief that our diversity meant being a part of Canada, and not apart from it... When Pierre Trudeau held office, our country was finally front and centre on the international stage. In the midst of the company of proud Canadians stood our actor-manager, guiding us towards the spotlight. He committed his entire life force to being a passionate advocate for the Canada of one's dreams. We owe him so very much."
Draft 1 for the Rt. Hon. Jean Chr้tien, Prime Minister
of Canada, Ottawa, 2001
Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother
"The sun has set on a life led to the fullest... I last met Her Majesty in 1997 when she dedicated the 'Canada Memorial' in Green Park, near her home. This impressive work of art honours the million Canadian men and women who served in Europe during two world wars. I can still hear the delicate cadence of her perfect French, each word chosen, each thought embellished with the wisdom that comes with eight decades of public duty. She spoke of her special companions among Canada's veterans, whom she met over 14 visits to Canada. To her, each one was a hero; to all of them, she was their comrade."
"...In 1989, she addressed our nation to mark the 50th anniversary of her first Royal Visit. She offered this reminiscence: 'I lost my heart to Canada and Canadians, and my feelings have not changed with the passage of time.'
"Neither have ours, Your Majesty. May God's embrace be your reward."
Draft 1 for the Rt. Hon. Jean Chr้tien, Prime Minister
of Canada, Ottawa, 2002
Governor General's Caring Canadian Awards
"I am here to join you in honouring this nation's proud track record of voluntary action of translating citizenship values into a grassroots spirit of generosity. Your living legacy of good will is one of Canada's great gifts to the world... about love of one's country and concern for its future; about the role every person can play in navigating Canada through a century of peace and prosperity. No contribution is too small in the never-ending challenge of nation-building."
"...This is not a matter of public relations. Volunteering is not about hype. It is about hope. Hope for a brighter future that lies in the hearts of millions of who strengthen the country through giving of themselves. With all the professional and domestic demands in life these days, it calls for a deep sense of commitment to say, 'Yes, I'll find the time.' "
For HRH The Prince of Wales, Rideau Hall, Ottawa, 2001
"Last March, I hosted a conference on sexism in advertising... Media specialists painted a portrait of an industry sadly out of synch with the reality of today. Strides we have made in the professional world are not yet fully evident in commercials, sitcoms and print ads. Too often, we are seen trying to catch... please... dress... or feed a man and pack him off to work. And who has the right to say that to be desirable you can't weigh over 100 pounds? As a politician, parent and a physician I am appalled at the trends dictated by advertisers and fashion moguls! This is drivel, and the ad companies know it as well as you and I do."
For Dr. Hedy Fry, former Secretary of State (Status of Women), to the National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women