A speech can do the impossible, instantly

In Queen Elizabeth's first televised Christmas Speech in 1957, a remote and imperious monarch becomes a nervous and charming young woman, right before her subjects' eyes.

I’ve shown clips of this speech in talks around the world, because it demonstrates the power of speeches to convey the humanity of their givers—sometimes in ways the givers don’t quite intend. 

I’m always moved by how it must have felt for the average Brit to suddenly glimpse their Queen so close up, in the intimacy of her home. 

The nervous young woman acknowledges as much, saying: “It’s inevitable that I should seem a rather remote figure to many of you—the successor to the kings and queens of history. Someone whose face may be familiar in newspapers and films, but who never really touches your personal lives. But now, at least for a few minutes, I welcome you to the peace of my own home.”

And then, as my colleague Benjamine Knight Barger has observed at many a conference, I always tear up a little at what the Queen reveals at very end of the broadcast—the last second—when she gives an uncertain smile and her eyes dart over to ask, “Am I finished?”

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Yes, Queen Elizabeth II, at long last you are.

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