Why would you share a secret in a speech? In these five secret-spilling speeches by women, each speaker's secret became a teachable moment for her audience--and a transformative moment for herself. You can sense how important it was to each of these women to share her experiences. From racism, violence and cancer to religion and sexual identity, every one of these speeches is a powerful statement. They're all drawn from The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women. Click through to watch video or read the text of these speeches and find lessons you can use to improve your own speaking:
- Essie Mae Washington-Williams said she felt "completely free" after publicly disclosing that she was the mixed-race child of a black mother and a segregationist U.S. senator, Strom Thurmond. She kept the secret until after her father's death, when she was in her seventies. Her statement needs no rhetorical flourishes to make it dramatic.
- Kayla Kearney came out to her high school assembly as a lesbian, during a special speaking program honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., with the theme "Time to break silence...about things that matter." The video of her statement went viral, and it's easy to see why this forthright speech resonated with so many, in the hall and beyond it.
- Minister Teresa McBain's admission that she is an atheist was her effort to stop leading a double life, and to define publicly what she'd long felt privately. Speaking up was the solution. She made her statement at a convention of atheists, in a talk that also got lots of attention well beyond the hall.
- Heidi Damon faced her attacker in court and divulged her secret: Her name. Up to that point, she'd been referred to as "Jane Doe" in the case of a man who attacked her and almost raped and killed her. Sharing this secret let her reclaim her identity, put a human face on the story, and encourage others to speak up.
- Betty Ford's 1975 speech to the American Cancer Society came at a time when admitting you had cancer just wasn't done in American society--it was whispered about, a source of shame. Using her role as First Lady of the United States, she gave this powerful keynote to cancer doctors as a bold public discussion of her mastectomy, and it prompted thousands of women to see their own physicians for a checkup.