Women, speaking

To celebrate International Women's Day, speechwriter Felicity Barber shares five examples of women making waves in public speaking.

In the last 12 months women’s speeches have been making waves and headlines. I want to use International Women’s Day 2018 to celebrate the women speakers using their voices to change hearts and minds, fight for their rights, and create the future they believe in. Here are my five favorite moments of women’s public speaking from the last year:

1. Oprah Winfrey rallies #metoo supporters at the Golden Globes, January 2018

The #metoo movement has sparked a global conversation about sexual harassment. Many celebrities made powerful statements at this year’s Golden Globes, but one stood apart: Oprah Winfrey used her acceptance speech for the lifetime achievement award to raise awareness of the #metoo and #timesup campaigns, and her words were celebrated around the world.

My favorite quote:

So 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.

2. Emma González stands up for her classmates killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, February 2018

I watched with tears rolling down my cheeks as the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School unfolded. It was truly heartbreaking to watch teenagers fleeing their school, running for their lives. These are images most of us have sadly seen before, but one thing was different about this school shooting. It wasn’t activists or politicians who led the national conversation about gun control that ensued, it was the students themselves.

If you missed the emotional plea of teenager, Emma González, at a rally following the shooting, it’s definitely worth watching.

My favorite quote:

We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks. Not because we're going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America, but because, just as David said, we are going to be the last mass shooting.

3. Actress Anne Hathaway fights for parental leave, March 2017

As a parent of one, with another baby on the way, parental leave is at the forefront of my mind. I love that Anne Hathaway, actress and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, used her speech on International Women’s Day 2017 to champion the rights of parents and call for paid parental leave across the globe.

My favorite quote:

We must ask ourselves, how will we be more tomorrow than we are today?

The whole world grows when people like you and me take a stand because we know that beyond the idea of how women and men are different, there is a deeper truth that love is love, and parents are parents.

4. The secret speech of MzBhaver Raver who fought for the victims of Grenfell Tower, June 2017

As a Brit living in the United States there are times when I feel a very long way from home. Watching Grenfell Tower burn, just a couple of miles from where I grew up in London was one of them. News reports described a chaotic response from the government, but an overwhelming outpouring of local support for those who’d lost loved ones or been made homeless by the flames that engulfed the 24-storey tower block. One of the most poignant moments following the tragedy was a speech by a woman known as "MzBhaver Raver" who volunteered tirelessly to help the local community. Her words emerged as part of a secret recording of a meeting at the Houses of Parliament and the audience applauded and banged the table in agreement throughout the impromptu speech.

My favorite quote:

We can march until our shoes wear down and our ankles get thicker, but it’s not going to change anything.

5. San Juan’s Mayor makes an impassioned plea for Federal Aid following the hurricanes in Puerto Rico, September 2017

The last hurricane season was particularly brutal and Puerto Rico was hit hard by hurricanes Jose and Maria. Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital, emerged as the voice of the Puerto Rican people, when she made an emotional statement asking for greater federal aid. It’s hard not to be moved by a woman, begging for help, who starts her speech with "mayday, we are in trouble."

My favorite quote:

So I am done being polite. I am done being politically correct. I am mad as hell because my people’s lives are at stake. And we are but one nation. We may be small, but we are huge in dignity and zealous for life.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Denise Graveline, a true champion of women’s public speaking. 

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