She died at the age of 100 in 2010, and her obituary in the New York Times notes something unusual about this woman speaker: She didn't begin her speaking career until she was in her 80s, after the publication of her memoir Anne Frank Remembered. The book shared her role in hiding the Frank family from the Nazis, as well as in saving the journals and papers that became The Diary of a Young Girl, as she describes in this gripping passage from her 1994 lecture:
an attempt to recreate the day when Frank's family was discovered and taken to the concentration camps. What can you learn from this famous speech?
- Women speakers can contribute at any age: I don't know many women who'd start speaking in their eighties, but I'm glad that Gies did. It gave her a 20-year career as a speaker, something I'm sure you aren't considering when you say "it's too late to start."
- Find and share a different perspective: Throughout the speech, Gies talks about the perspectives of children, citing what Frank said and what she herself experienced as a child growing up in Austria and Holland--all to put the lie to some of the things parents commonly tell their children about who deserves help or blame. Similarly, she speaks frankly about being an Austrian ashamed of the atrocities committed by Germans and Austrians, and how those feelings were challenged by others. If you've got a perspective that's not among the usual suspects, it will add contrast, drama and perhaps surprise to your speech. Put it in!
- Sometimes, speaking in your second language is a bonus: Gies delivers the lecture, which took place in America, in English, sometimes seeking help from a colleague and using simple language. She doesn't need complex sentences to describe this complex situation. The power of what happened propels this speech, no embellishments needed.