As I browsed through what happened today in history – that’s my tweet style (follow me on Twitter if you’re interested) I noticed that today in 1940 Winston Churchill gave the first of his epic and inspiring speeches in the House of Commons. Even reading it now, when we can’t imagine what the threat of standing alone against the Nazi tyranny felt like, his words dig up all kinds of noble and valiant feelings. So how powerfully they must have come over, via the crackly wireless of 1940, to families up and down the country. And it makes you value the great power of words, of speechmaking, of oratory as a wonderfully powerful tool to encourage and hearten people.
Some great speakers have etched their words into our minds for ever – Jefferson’s Declaration of Human Rights still sounds magnificent: “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” And think of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream”, JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you…”, Margaret Thatcher’s “The lady’s not for turning” – these great speeches hit their message right into your solar plexus.
So, when your kids sweat and swear their way through English Lit and curse the endless essays they have to write, be encouraged that this is all good stuff to stretch their powers of expression and find new ways to say important things.
They may not end up being wartime prime ministers, but it’s a skill that’ll stay with them their whole life long.