- Helen Keller's 1916 speech, "Strike Against War," was the most famous of her 50-year career as a public speaker--an achievement for the deaf and blind activist for whom speaking was at one time thought to be an impossibility.
- Elizabeth Glaser spoke on AIDS at the 1992 Democratic national convention in the U.S., humanizing the epidemic even as she called for leadership action. She died two years later, in 1994.
- Mary Fisher took her turn to speak about AIDS in the same year, but at the Republican national convention. She used the theme of "whispers" about AIDS in a speech that is widely considered one of the best of the 20th century.
- Princess Diana spoke about the need for a ban on landmines in terms of the disabling costs to civilians in countries torn apart by war, detailing surgery and prosthetic device costs and describing her meetings with survivors of landmine accidents.
- Elyn Saks spoke about mental disability by describing her own experiences with schizophrenia, giving voice to a disability that is rarely spoken about. She urged her listeners to "please do send flowers" as they would to someone with a physical illness or disability.
- Jill Bolte Taylor's "stroke of insight" TED talk took eight years of preparation, because she first had to recover her ability to move and speak after a disabling stroke. A neurologist, she knew just what was happening as it happened to her: "And in that moment, I knew I was no longer the choreographer of my life."
- War correspondent Marie Colvin, herself blind in one eye from a war injury, gave a eulogy for fallen fellow journalists, describing the price they pay in physical and mental disabilities. She died in an attack two years later, on the day she was due to return home.
- Jane Fonda tackles disability as among the challenges we'll all face in "life's third act." She talks about aging as "the staircase, which may seem like an odd metaphor for seniors given the fact that many seniors are challenged by stairs. Myself included." The movie icon shows her frank and funny style of discussing her own disabilities in this TEDWomen talk.
- Tanni Grey-Thompson's urging to "shout a bit louder" on disability used the occasion of a speech honoring the first disabled member of the British Parliament, and shared her own experience as a wheelchair-bound MP and athlete.
- Golfer Sophie Gustafson gave a rare speech describing her stuttering is "part of who I am." The six-and-a-half minute speech took eight hours to record on video, demonstrating the extraordinary lengths she went to in making her voice heard.
- Most members of the audience watching Sheena Iyengar's TED talk on the art of choosing didn't know she was blind until she was led on stage. Although her disability wasn't mentioned in the program, it was discussed in a Q&A with a host after her talk--not for its own sake, but in the context of how it impacts her research.
- Sue Austin's "I am the most mobile person in the room" talk at TEDMED introduced the audience to her performance art--daring deep-water dives in a wheelchair--but prompted the audience to consider the "cages" that are holding them back.
Friday, January 16, 2015
The Eloquent Woman Index of famous speeches by women, disability is a recurring theme. Talking about mental and physical limits--and possibilities--is one important role these speakers have in common. Demonstrating what speakers with disabilities can do is another, for many in this collection. Click the link on any speaker's name below to learn more about her and her speech, with video, audio or text of these famous speeches, where available: