Friday, February 16, 2018

Famous Speech Friday: Lillian Gilbreth on the human side of automation

Today, when people are fretting about Amazon putting robots in place of cashiers at Whole Foods, and voice assistants are common productivity tools, we are still using the principles of humanizing automation that were first advanced by psychologist, engineer, and famous mom Lillian Gilbreth.

With her husband Frank, she embarked on "motion study"--the movements and micro-motions we make in doing any task--but her emphasis always was on the human aspect of making movement more efficient. Her insights led to many things we take for granted, from shelves inside refrigerator doors to step-on levers that lift the lids of trash cans, among many others, and helped major companies make their assembly-line production more efficient and cost-effective. I could make a case for calling her a pioneer in UX, the user experience.

Gilbreth had 12 children with her husband, famously captured by two of her children in the book Cheaper by the Dozen. At home, the children were a testbed for ideas, learning languages and doing chores using motion study. But when Frank Gilbreth died unexpectedly, Lillian had to expand her range to include more public speaking. In Belles on Their Toes, the sequel to Cheaper by the Dozen, the book begins with her departure for Europe, just days after her husband's death. She was headed to two major engineering meetings where he had committed to speak.
She had been invited to substitute for him at the two sessions. At first, it seemed out of the question to accept. And then it seemed to be the one opportunity of keeping the family together. Engineering was, and still is, a man's field. Mother knew there would be difficulties in trying to continue Dad's business. But if she made a success of her two speeches in Europe, before some of the biggest engineers in the world, she might have an easier time in convincing Dad's clients that she could do the work.
It was a case of public speaking helping to establish her reputation in her own right. And it worked. After she began speaking, major companies--Macy's department stores, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, and more--hired her to advise them, and the family consulting business continued.

Considered the "first lady of engineering," and the first person to get a degree in industrial psychology, Gilbreth became a frequent and in-demand speaker throughout her long life. In 1957, when she was 79, she keynoted the national conference of the Society of Women Engineers, speaking on "The Human Side of Automation." And her message to engineers still works today:
There are two things it seems to me engineering groups have to offer when when any type of problem comes up and one is the code of ethics which we all share. It’s a very simple code stated in the beginning as being our responsibility “to do our best to utilize the resources of nature for the benefit of mankind.” I suppose the people who first worded the code thought it was self-evident that the resources of nature would include the resources of human nature, but some people didn’t seem to recognize that and so the code was expanded. And now it reads “to utilize the resources of nature and of human nature for the benefit of mankind.” And there you see we have human being really emphasized twice. First, as being an enormous resource and second, as being the reason for, the cause why we are using these resources at all. 
And surely if there ever was a time when we needed to go on record not only as a profession, but as a people that we believe these resources should be used and should be used for benefit of mankind and not the harm of mankind, this is the time. And the other thing we have to offer, of course, is the scientific method. The questioning method. Not the kind of question, the Socratic kind, which we ask because we’re trying to show that somebody doesn’t know very much. Not even the legal type of question. But the simple question that a child asks when he really is intellectually curious and he wants to know the answer and he’s intelligent enough to listen to what is said. So I think we have those two things to offer and as we look at these challenges which are coming to everybody, perhaps we see as we put the question to ourselves that we do have a special responsibility.
What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • A lifetime of public speaking experience can start anytime: Gilbreth was in her mid-40s when her husband's sudden death forced her into public speaking. She was in her mid-90s when she died, and as this speech shows, she was a speaker for nearly half her life, a good four to five decades, despite her "late start."
  • Don't be a one-trick pony: Gilbreth pursued both automation and psychology because she was fascinated by both. That meant that, when technology became an issue at odds with humans, whether on the factory floor or in the broader society, she was equipped to talk about both in a meaningful way. You can do the same with your specialty by finding a way to broaden your expertise to another realm, and then combine the two in your speaking. It will expand your utility as a sought-after speaker.
  • Speaking to others in your profession? Take them to higher ground: Much of Gilbreth's expertise was in the weeds, the details and micro-details of how people move, behave, and think about tasks. But in this speech to colleagues, she took them back to the noble goals of the profession. Your professional conference isn't just a place for hands-on learning, but if you're the keynote speaker, taking the audience to a higher place and making them think is part of the job.
You can go here to listen to the audio recording of the keynote. And here's a short video summary of her accomplishments:

 
(Rutgers University archive photo of Gilbreth in 1921, three years before her husband's death.)

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

African-American Folktales: New resource for storytellers

If you're looking for a gift to mark Black History Month, look no further: The Annotated African American Folktales is a treasure trove for storytellers who want to draw on African and African-American folktales. More than 100 examples are collected and annotated here by a stellar pair of experts: Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a scholar of African and African-American research, and Maria Tatar, who studies folklore and fairy tales. (You can read more about their unusual collaboration in this New York Times review.)

Each author provides an introduction that's a short course in how to approach these tales appropriately. They include in the collection now-controversial versions of African-American tales created by Walt Disney and others, since they, too, are now part of the canon. And they discuss how modern authors like Toni Morrison have adapted some of the African and African-American folktales in more modern work.

2018 is shaping up already as a great year for books with useful resources for speechwriters and public speakers interested in good storytelling. Be sure to add this volume to your bookshelf.

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

I read a lot about women and public speaking, and post my finds first on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook. But I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. Here's what I've been reading lately:
  • Did you miss? This week, the blog looked at  and Famous Speech Friday shared a speech by 
  • About the quote:
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Famous Speech Friday: Ashton Applewhite's TED talk "Let's stop ageism"

Writer Ashton Applewhite has made ageism her target with the This Chair Rocks blog and Yo, is this ageist? blog. And in her 2017 TED talk, she made a call to action to the audience, since, as she made clear from the start, older is what everyone in the room is going to become.

This is a polished, well-paced, often funny TED talk that not only walked the audience through contradictory ideas we share about aging, but modeled the very behavior Applewhite was encouraging. But the core of the talk is its logical arguments. Applewhite busts myths about aging, offers alternative data, and compares, effectively, ageism to other forms of discrimination. Here's the centerpiece of her speech:
Older people can be the most ageist of all, because we've had a lifetime to internalize these messages and we've never thought to challenge them. I had to acknowledge it and stop colluding. "Senior moment" quips, for example: I stopped making them when it dawned on me that when I lost the car keys in high school, I didn't call it a "junior moment." 
I stopped blaming my sore knee on being 64. My other knee doesn't hurt, and it's just as old. 
We are all worried about some aspect of getting older, whether running out of money, getting sick, ending up alone, and those fears are legitimate and real. But what never dawns on most of us is that the experience of reaching old age can be better or worse depending on the culture in which it takes place. It is not having a vagina that makes life harder for women. It's sexism.
It's not loving a man that makes life harder for gay guys. It's homophobia. And it is not the passage of time that makes getting older so much harder than it has to be. It is ageism. When labels are hard to read or there's no handrail or we can't open the damn jar, we blame ourselves, our failure to age successfully, instead of the ageism that makes those natural transitions shameful and the discrimination that makes those barriers acceptable. You can't make money off satisfaction, but shame and fear create markets, and capitalism always needs new markets. Who says wrinkles are ugly? The multi-billion-dollar skin care industry. Who says perimenopause and low T and mild cognitive impairment are medical conditions? The trillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry. 
The more clearly we see these forces at work, the easier it is to come up with alternative, more positive and more accurate narratives. Aging is not a problem to be fixed or a disease to be cured. It is a natural, powerful, lifelong process that unites us all.
And a word about Applewhite's outfit: It's got lots of interesting detail in the top, which we are able to see because it is not black. I can't tell you how many TED talks I've seen where the gorgeous dressmaker details cannot be seen--either in the hall by the live audience, or on camera--because the speaker didn't listen to instructions not to wear black. Not a problem here.

What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • You don't need a personal story to give a TED talk: This talk is all about the data and logic, not about a well-crafted personal story. Yes, Applewhite includes some personal perspective here and there--see her knees, above--but this is a great example of an effective, story-less TED talk.
  • Tone is everything: Applewhite tackles a topic no one likes to discuss, and which provokes a lot of anxiety. But her delivery is direct and non-anxious, well-paced but not frenetic. She's modeling the tone she hopes we'll take in discussing aging in a forthright manner, a great job for your talks about controversial topics to take on.
  • A strong call to action is essential for a talk where you've layered on the data and logic. What should we do now that we know all this. Applewhite doesn't waste the moment, making a clear call to action in this convincing talk.
You can see the talk here or below.


 

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Manal al-Sharif on women speaking up in Saudi Arabia

Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman's Awakening is the new book from Manal Al-Sharif, the Saudi woman who got the world's attention by breaking her country's ban on women driving cars with a YouTube video.

Now a resident of Australia, Al-Sharif is on a book tour and was interviewed recently by NPR's Terry Gross on Fresh Air. Many of her comments touched on her motivation for speaking up, the forces that prevent women from doing so, and the penalties for outspoken women.

From the transcript, after describing egregious discrimination against women, Al-Sharif said:
AL-SHARIF: So these things really make you speak up. Most people inside are too afraid to speak up because the backlash from the society and from the government is unbearable. We live in one of the last absolute monarchies in the world. Men and women don't have political or civil rights. So imagine someone comes and asks for their civil rights. 
The backlash is really huge. You get harassed. You get banned from leaving the country, which as we call it the internal exile. You lose your job. You cannot land a job after that, which was the case with me when I left my job. So the price - the personal price you pay is really high. And they make sure that everyone knows, so they don't follow you. They don't walk in your path.
Later in the interview, she spoke again about the price of speaking up:
GROSS: Are you going back to Saudi Arabia anytime in the near future? 
AL-SHARIF: Yes, of course. I have my son there. So after the tour, right away I'm going back to Saudi. 
GROSS: Are you worried? 
AL-SHARIF: Hopefully I don't get arrested. I I'm always worried. Every time I go to Saudi Arabia, I'm always worried because it's never - you never know when you get arrested again for a tweet or a retweet or something you said in an interview like what I'm doing now with you, something that slipped. 
So you have to always have this filter going on the whole time you talk. Can I say this or not? Will this get me in trouble or not? Because at the end of the day, I always think I'm going back to Saudi. I have to - I want to see my son. So it's tricky.
Read more about Al-Sharif's driving campaign and the speech that brought it to the world in our Famous Speech Friday post about her.

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

I read a lot about women and public speaking, and post my finds first on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook. But I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. Here's what I've been reading lately:




Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Friday, February 2, 2018

For #BlackHistoryMonth, 50 famous speeches by black women

Black women speakers from all over the world are often featured in The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women. Whether African, American or from elsewhere in the world, they make up close to 20 percent of the speeches we've collected and featured so far. And every year, this expanding collection of speeches by black women is the most-read post on the blog! Check out the 50 famous speeches from the Index given by black women speakers, arranged in chronological order from 1851 to the present. At the links, you will find (where available) video, photos, transcripts or texts, along with what you can learn from these speeches to improve your own public speaking:
  1. Sojourner Truth's 1851 speech "Ain't I a Woman?" is oft-quoted, but has a disputed source, illustrating why it's often tough to find famous women's speeches. In this case, that happened because Truth could neither read nor write. That doesn't detract at all from her message about equality for all women of all races. Read Soujourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman" Speech: A Primary Source Investigation for more about the many versions of this speech, only one of which contains the most-quoted phrase.
  2. Mary Ann Shadd Cary's 1858 "Break Every Yoke" defied the norms against women--and black women especially--speaking in public. This sermon demonstrates why she was such a popular antislavery speaker in the years leading up to the American Civil War.
  3. Harriet Tubman's 1859 fable about colonizing slaves tackled one of the proposals to end slavery--by sending American slaves to Africa--with a simple story anyone could remember and repeat. It brought the house down at an antislavery rally.
  4. Ida B. Wells's 1909 "This Awful Slaughter" busted the myth that women's safety was the reason lynchings were carried out, and used a mix of data and defiance to fight against the practice of mob killings of black men. Read the book To Tell the Truth Freely: The Life of Ida B. Wells to learn more about her campaign.
  5. Josephine Baker at the March on Washington shares the brief remarks of the lone woman to share the program with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and scores of other male speakers. Those who thought of her as a notorious showgirl learned more about her self-enforced exile to France as a way of seeking racial equality.
  6. Fannie Lou Hamer's 1964 convention committee testimony failed to gain her a seat at that convention, but succeeded in raising the visibility of violence against blacks attempting to register to vote. Four years later, she became an historic convention delegate. You can read more about her public speaking in The Speeches of Fannie Lou Hamer: To Tell It Like It Is.
  7. Coretta Scott King's 1968 "10 Commandments on Vietnam" -- a speech she gave in her husband's place, just weeks after his assassination -- took scribbled notes found in his pockets and made them into a powerful call to action. Desert Rose: The Life and Legacy of Coretta Scott King is a recent biography. This post was our very first Famous Speech Friday entry!
  8. Shirley Chisholm introducing the Equal Rights Amendment in 1969 wasn't a first. This member of Congress was re-introducing the legislation, 40 years after it was first proposed--and did so in her usual fiery and forthright style.
  9. Shirley Chisholm's contested debate time during the 1972 presidential election campaign came after she was shut out of network television debates, and sued--creating a precedent that helps women candidates even today.
  10. Barbara Jordan's 1976 Democratic convention keynote broke barriers for women and for blacks in one speech, suggesting that "the American Dream need not be deferred." It's loaded with elegant rhetoric and is a wonderful listen, thanks to Jordan's vocalizing skills. A Private Woman in Public Spaces: Barbara Jordan's Speeches on Ethics, Public Religion, and Law takes a focused look at the speeches of one of America's most eloquent women.
  11. Anita Hill's 1981 Senate testimony about Clarence Thomas disrupted the Senate confirmation hearings of the then-nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, leveling sexual harrassment allegations against him that ultimately did not prevent his appointment to the court. "It would have been more comfortable to remain silent," she said in this televised testimony that stunned viewers and brought harrassment into the open as an issue. In Speaking Truth to Power, she tells her story.
  12. Maya Angelou's 1995 poem, "Phenomenal Woman," often delivered by her and others as a speech, summed up for me and many others what made this frequent speaker so special. Listen closely to her charming delivery.
  13. Angelou's 2006 eulogy for Coretta Scott King might be any eulogy from one close friend for another, as Angelou tells stories about the civil rights icon that only a girlfriend would know. This is a lovely, simple and moving tribute.
  14. Edwidge Danticat's 2007 testimony on death in detention gave the novelist a gripping real-life story to tell, about her uncle's treatment at the hands of U.S. immigration and customs officials when he was held in detention. It's moving, direct and powerful, just like her fictional writings. You can read more about this dramatic story in her book Brother, I'm Dying.
  15. Rep. Gwen Moore's 2011 floor speech on abortion rights and family planning came during a debate about federal funding for family planning. She chose to use her status as a member of Congress to share a personal perspective as a former teenage mother.
  16. Michelle Obama's 2011 speech to young African women leaders took place in a powerful setting, and used that visual reminder to call these young women to action. Michelle Obama: Speeches on Life, Love, and American Values collects speeches of our current First Lady, preserving the legacy of a frequent speaker.
  17. Viola Davis's 2011 awards acceptance speech, "What keeps me in the business is hope," went far beyond the usual platitudes and confronted what it's like to be a black actress in the movie industry. An eloquent extemporaneous speech.
  18. Chimamanda Adichie's "we should all be feminists," a 2012 TEDxEuston talk, has inspired pop icons and women and men around the world with its frank, funny, and fierce viewpoint.
  19. Michelle Obama's 2012 Democratic National Convention speech follows a formula for memorable speeches recommended by President John F. Kennedy's speechwriter, Ted Sorensen. And it worked with today's audiences, garnering more than 28,000 tweets per second from those who watched it.
  20. Viola Davis's 2012 commencement speech is titled "Go out and live!" It's a stunning example of what you can do with a tired speaking format, and is like no college commencement speech you've ever endured. Perhaps my favorite line: "The two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you discover why you were born."
  21. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's 2013 Harvard commencement speech shared the dreams and roadblocks in the Liberian president's stellar career. She says, "If your dreams do not scare you, they're not big enough."
  22. Essie Washington-Williams's 2013 "I feel completely free" told the world a secret she'd kept most of her life: She was the daughter of a black woman and Senator Strom Thurmond, a white segregationist who campaigned against civil rights.
  23. Joyce Banda's tribute to Nelson Mandela at his memorial service in 2013 wasn't a remarkable text--until the Malawi president went off-script and put in the color and creativity she got in part from her mentor.
  24. Myrlie Evers-Williams's invocation at President Obama's second inaugural in 2013 marked the first time the invocation at the ceremony was given by a woman, and by someone other than a member of the clergy. The widow of assassinated civil rights activist Medgar Evers summoned the spirits of the leaders of that movement to witness the day's proceedings. Read more about her story in her memoir Watch Me Fly: What I Learned on Becoming the Woman I Was Meant to Be.
  25. Leymah Gbowee's 2013 Barnard commencement speech had the Liberian Nobel laureate urging women to "step out of the shadows" and get more credit for their work.
  26. Gabourey Sidibe's speech at the 2014 Gloria Awards used an iconic photo of her aunt and Gloria Steinem to honor Steinem, and to talk about being confident despite how she's taunted because of her weight.
  27. Michelle Obama's eulogy for Maya Angelou in 2014 echoed words from "Phenomenal Woman" and told how the poet inspired her as a child.
  28. Kerry Washington spoke in 2014 on the risks of public speaking for women and women of color, admitting she'd turned down the chance to give a TED talk in an award acceptance speech.
  29. Rashema Melson's 2014 high school valedictory speech made headlines because the speaker overcame homelessness to graduate at the top of her class and get into Georgetown. A short, fierce, fantastic speech.
  30. Laverne Cox gave a 2014 keynote on transgender activism for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force meeting, offering inspiration and encouragement to local activists.
  31. Lupita Nyong'o used a 2014 acceptance speech at a Hollywood luncheon to talk about the conflicting views we have about black women and beauty in a revealing, resonant talk.
  32. Viola Davis's 2014 acceptance speech focused on hungertaking a Hollywood audience to the dumpsters where she dived for food as a child, and speaking abou the importance of public speaking to shed light on so-called "unspeakable" issues. A riveting short speech.
  33. Shonda Rhimes's "You are not alone" speech at the Human Rights Campaign Fund awards in 2015 expanded on one of her favorite themes: It's not "diversity," it's reflecting what is normal that makes her work inclusive.
  34. Keila Banks's "Undefinable Me" was the 13-year-old's keynote at a major tech conference, where she put the lie to common perceptions of who is and is not technically adept.
  35. Viola Davis brought the house down at the 2015 Emmy Awards, where she captured the first best actress in a drama award for a black woman, with an acceptance speech that left no doubt about the importance and weight of that moment.
  36. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche calls likability a barrier to authentic storytelling, a message she gave to young girls in 2015 that should resonate with every eloquent woman.
  37. Linda Cliatt-Wayman closed the 2015 TEDWomen conference with this powerful message about education in troubled schools, prompted by a moment when she was interrupted mid-speech by a student.
  38. Rep. Terri Sewell's remarks at the 2015 anniversary of the civil rights march on Selma, Alabama, in 1965, shared her perspective as a living marker of progress--she grew up there, and now represents the city in the U.S. Congress. And she made President Obama laugh during her remarks, always a plus.
  39. Lupita Nyong'o keynoted a 2015 women's conference and talked about following her fears--including a fear of giving that very keynote. The speech demonstrates just what you can accomplish when you follow her lead.
  40. Viola Davis's "Everything should be spoken," another 2015 awards acceptance speech, advocated that we should be speaking about "the unspeakable" and normalizing it.
  41. Queen Latifah used her 2016 Screen Actors Guild award acceptance to encourage others who don't fit society's lens to define themselves and "keep fighting for it" in a short, strong speech which also saw her use her award statuette as a barbell, briefly.
  42. Nancy Hanks on the student she expelled was a tale told to a convention of educators, a tale of unconscious bias and second chances.
  43. Michelle Obama's 2016 Democratic convention speech, in which she referred to the White House as "a house built by slaves," contained many lines quoted again and again, including, "When they go low, we go high."
  44. Beyoncé's speech on racism and fashion schooled the fashion designers awarding her "icon" status with the story of why her family made her performance outfits: Because every design house had turned down the opportunity.
  45. Michelle Obama's "enough is enough" speech on misogyny was among the most electric speeches given in the 2016 presidential campaign. She said out loud things that women experience every day.
  46. Viola Davis's introduction of Meryl Streep at the 2017 Golden Globe Awards ceremony was like a five-minute TED talk: Direct, funny, thoughtful, and not your usual introduction fare. Well worth a study.
  47. Viola Davis accepts an historic Oscar: She talked about storytelling, gave you a good example of how to thank people, and did it so well the host joked she should get an Emmy Award for the speech.
  48. Gwen Ifill on policy, politics, and leadership is just one more example of why we miss this journalist, who died too soon. 
  49. Rep. Maxine Waters's "reclaiming my time" became a part of the vocabulary women need to develop in discourse--and a rallying cry.
  50. Sen. Kamala Harris's silenced Senate questions was a particularly egregious example of interruption and attempts to silence women, handled well by the new Senator.
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Let a doctor (and frequent speaker) explain why you need a coach

There's a great recent TED talk from physician, bestselling author, and frequent speaker Atul Gawande that makes a great case for getting a coach--and in the process of giving this talk, Gawande tackles directly a barrier I face when working with highly trained individuals: They think they've been taught everything they need to know to figure out on their own what they need to know.

In other words, they react poorly to the idea they need to be coached or taught new skills, particularly the ones they diminish by calling them "soft" skills. You know, like public speaking. Trouble is, few of them have ever learned the skills involved in public presentations and speechmaking.

As a physician, Gawande notes in his talk, he and his colleagues have been taught that "A professional is someone who is capable of managing their own improvement." But, he, notes, "Now, the contrasting view comes out of sports. And they say "You are never done, everybody needs a coach." Everyone. The greatest in the world needs a coach."

After thinking about his own work as a surgeon, Gawande concluded, "Turns out there are numerous problems in making it on your own. You don't recognize the issues that are standing in your way or if you do, you don't necessarily know how to fix them. And the result is that somewhere along the way, you stop improving." So he got a coach--a surgeon-as-coach. And he offers numerous other examples, from medicine and other fields, of situations that went well (or not) when coaching was applied (or not).

As a coach myself, I often reach for lessons from other coaches in many fields. That's why I'm reading basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's memoir, Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court. He recalls being at the White House ceremony to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom along with luminaries like Robert Redford, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Bruce Springsteen:
I looked down the line of the wonderfully successful people on either side of me and wondered if each of them had a Coach Wooden, who, to quote President Obama, "helped make me who I am." I hoped so, because without Coach, my life would have been so much less. Less joyous. Less meaningful. Less filled with love.
Jabbar notes that Coach Wooden focused players on the activity at hand, not the outcome. It's a great lesson for public speakers as well.

Take a look at Gawande's exploration of coaching, and if you want to improve your speaking skills, get in touch with me at eloquentwoman AT gmail DOT com. Watch the video below or here:

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

I read a lot about women and public speaking, and post my finds first on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook. But I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. Here's what I've been reading lately:
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Famous Speech Friday: Megan Red Shirt-Shaw's convocation speech

In May 2017, Megan Red Shirt-Shaw became one of the first Native Americans to give a convocation speech at Harvard University, speaking on behalf of her fellow students in the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the venue, the speech garnered much attention for its passionate defense of education for all. But Red Shirt-Shaw's take on the topic is a reminder that education doesn't start, end, or remained confined within a school--even a place as prestigious as Harvard.

Red Shirt-Shaw spent her graduate years balancing study time with time as a front-line activist working with the Harvard student group Future Indigenous Educators Resisting Colonial Education (FIERCE) on urgent issues such as the Dakota Pipeline Access movement. Her convocation speech is unusual in that it highlights the way that traditional classrooms and assignments can often be the least important parts of an education. This part of the address, describing her work with a Canadian education program for indigenous girls called Moving the Mountain, is just one of the striking examples of this fact:
That day with faces like mine would remind me in my greatest lesson of the year what resilience is, unlike my own experiences. Almost every person and every system in their life has let them down, and yet they persevere, rising like fire from the ashes. Moving the mountains, unleashed in their ways. I cried in anger for the entire flight back because I knew what I was learning here in the classroom wasn't going to make the world better for them tomorrow.
What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Take advantage of an historic opportunity. As one of Harvard's first Native American convocation speakers, Red Shirt-Shaw found ways to explain how her background had fueled and influenced her time at the university. The passage about how she carried the voices of her family and other native students with her, from her first day on campus, reminded me of what institutions have to gain from expanding the diversity of their student body. And one of the most popular lines from the speech passed around on social media (see below) was her mother's cherished Lakota phrase: "Weksuye, ciksuye, miksuye." ("I remember, I remember you, remember me.")
  • Reach for poetry, if it's in your grasp. Red Shirt-Shaw, among her many talents, is a gifted writer and editor who founded the online publication Natives in America to highlight the work of young Native writers. I think part of the appeal of her speech is the gorgeous bits of writing in it that verge on the poetic--lines like this one: "We cannot begin to predict in the future what will be difficult, what will feel safe, who will be beautiful to us, and what will make us feel like we've come undone."
  • Keep the conversation going after your speech. There are plenty of ways to make your speech resonate far beyond the time and space occupied by its original listeners. Recording and sharing video, transcriptions, links to materials used in preparing your talk and following up on social media are all great options. I was touched by Red Shirt-Shaw's follow-up on Twitter as the speech gathered more online viewers, listing her hopes the speech's future impact, including the hope to "honor indigenous voices and let's move more of them onto stages everywhere, every day, all the time."
Here's the full video of the speech:


(Freelance writer Becky Ham contributed this Famous Speech Friday post)

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

New volume of talks from The Moth focuses on uncertainty

I received as a gift The Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown from a friend after a hospital stay during which the doctors couldn't yet diagnose me, so I was living in medical uncertainty. It was a well-timed choice, focused as this volume is on talks about the unknown.

And aside from being a beautifully made volume--one you will want in hardcopy even if, like me, you mostly collect ebooks--this book does something I wish we'd see more of: It collects actual scripts (or in this case transcripts) of complete talks. Talks at The Moth must be personal experiences of the speakers and they must be true, but after that, anything goes.

This is a wonderful volume for the shelf of a speechwriter, a speaker seeking to learn how to tell effective personal stories, or that good friend waiting for a diagnosis or a decision to land.

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

I read a lot about women and public speaking, and post my finds first on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook. But I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. Here's what I've been reading lately:
  • How to respond to harassment: Recently, reader Claire Duffy made this request: "The lid has blown right off the sexual harassment issue. It’s ugly and traumatic territory. I’d like to see girls and women getting some help with negotiating this difficult topic. I am surrounded by women saying - ashamedly ‘I didn’t know how to get him to stop’ and I know several who are simply paralyzed by the inability to speak up about it - whether they’re victims, or just dealing with discussions in a social setting. It all comes back to the age old power imbalance that got you started on this blog in the first place. To that I would add the stupefying insensitivity so many men show on this matter. They just don’t get it. How can we help them? So that’s my item for the ‘to do’ list." This resource page from Catalyst is a great start with info for harrassed women, men, and employers.
  • A voice that resonates: A wonderful look from The Library of Congress about the little we know about Abraham Lincoln's voice. I love that he was a slow speaker: "Lincoln also spoke slowly, allowing his words to be considered and understood. While this pace may have accorded with Lincoln’s own speaking style, he clearly recognized the value of a slow cadence in a public address. Unable to attend a rally in Springfield, Illinois, in 1863, he sent a letter to be read aloud on his behalf, a draft of which is in the Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. “You are one of the best public readers. I have but one suggestion,” Lincoln advised his political associate James C. Conkling: “Read it very slowly.” "
  • Did you miss? This week, the blog looked at Mary Beard's new book on women and power, and Famous Speech Friday shared Mary Meeker's 2017 Internet trends report, a rule-breaking presentation.
  • About the quote: Get some courage from frequent-speaking First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Famous Speech Friday: Mary Meeker's 2017 Internet trends report

She breaks every rule in the book with her annual presentation. She tends to wear unremarkable black. Her slide deck is enormous, with more than 300 slides for a 30-minute time slot. Her charts have too much type on them, many impossible to read from the audience. Her delivery is staccato, clipped, fast-talker fast, and often monotone.

But Mary Meeker, a venture capitalist with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, gives what is arguably the most famous annual slide presentation in any industry. Her slide deck this year has more than 1.8 million views on SlideShare at this writing and, unlike yours or mine, is pored over for clues and hints as to what this expert on the digital space foresees for the year ahead.

For Meeker, it is what it is. Her beginning--almost a warning to the audience--tells you this is not going to be some kind of inspiring TED talk: "This presentation is meant to be read, it's not meant to be presented, so it is online at KleinerPerkins.com and elsewhere, so please do not take notes and I apologize for the speed at which I will go through this." Her delivery is not without humor, pauses, or expressiveness, although it is a workmanlike effort to get through a lot of material.

The presentation is not as unremarkable as that sounds. In fact, it carries huge influence. For one relatively new private ad tech company, Vungle, being featured on slide 27 of Meeker's 355-slide deck this year meant instant fame: "Large investors, the type that you would dream about reaching out to you, are courting you and your board," [Vungle co-founder and CEO Zain] Jaffer, 29, said. "Now I'm being asked what I would do if I had an 'extra $100 million or $200 million.'"

What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Content matters: Meeker's annual report is sought after because of its unique and comprehensive look at all the major internet and digital trends of the day--not just a data dump, but trenchant analysis, distilled so it makes sense. Yes, you can have a 355-page distillation. On occasion. This presentation is eagerly awaited each year for the content, which is stellar. It adds value. Don't let anyone tell you your content doesn't matter. It does.
  • If you're going to buck the rules, explain how: Meeker's early disclaimer that the slides are not meant to be presented is there for a reason: To be sure her audiences (those in front of her and the virtual gang) understand her intention. But it's a useful reminder for speakers: Your slides are not the be-all end-all of your presentation.
  • Throw me a sparse summary to keep my understanding high: Throughout the deck, you'll see nearly blank slides with just a few words of summary highlighting and summarizing the trend data she's discussing. "Ad Growth = Driven by Mobile" is one example. Those short markers ensure her audience can follow along and get the gist of what the longer, more complex data slides will back up in later reading.
This isn't necessarily a format to emulate, but one to marvel at in the hands of a master. I follow Meeker's report every year, and learn much from it. You can see the full slide deck here, and watch the entire talk in the video here or below:


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Thursday, January 18, 2018

"Find your voice and use it:" New book encourages women speakers

A British writer gave two powerful lectures on women and their right to express themselves, and they were published as a book that went on to be a manifesto for women's right to an independent voice that had a huge impact on women for decades. I'm referring, of course, to the lectures that became Virginia Woolf's masterpiece A Room of One's Own. But there is a new manifesto out, one that also combines two lectures with an equal power to inspire women on public speaking and the power that comes with it.

Women and Power A Manifesto combines two lectures by British classics scholar Mary Beard. If you want a preview, we covered both of these lectures in our Famous Speech Friday series, with the lecture on women and power here, and the lecture on the public voice of women here. So many women don't realize that today's issues in public speaking for women are not just issues of today, but endless repetitions that stem from ancient times. And since ancient times are Beard's specialty, she takes the time to show us the impact that patriarchy has had on women's voices and power for centuries. I should note that the same historical record has been available to male historians all this time all this time, and yet we rarely read about the systemic ways in which women's voices have been silenced throughout history. For that reason alone, this book is a must-read.

Beard isn't just influenced by history. As a female academic, she sees the gender disparities on conference programs, and is trolled unmercifully online by those who disagree with her feminist views. Her work is well-informed by today's challenges, and her advice is simple: "Find your voice and use it.". I hope you'll take the time to read this important work.
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Get involved with more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

I read a lot about women and public speaking, and post my finds first on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook. But I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. Here's what I've been reading lately:
  • The gift of your voice: From Donate your voice so Siri doesn't just work for white men: "Through Project Common Voice, which launched last month, Mozilla aims to collect 10,000 hours of spoken English from people with a wide range of accents." Great project for readers of The Eloquent Woman, via my clients at Mozilla!
  • Women talk more? Really? Thanks for the data: "Gong analyzed 519,000 sales calls and discovered that the average monologue of male salespeople to female buyers was significantly longer (108 seconds) than the average monologue to a man (91 seconds). In other words, men talked for longer periods of uninterrupted time when selling to women. All told, when salesmen worked with female buyers, the men did 61% of the talking."
  • Did you miss? This week, the blog looked at 9 ideas to mix up your speaking in 2018, a guest post from Cate Huston, and Famous Speech Friday shared 23 famous speeches by women speaking in parliamentary assemblies.
  • About the quote: Give voice to your words, eloquent women! Wisdom from Maya Angelou.
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Famous Speech Friday: Oprah Winfrey at the Golden Globes

Oprah Winfrey--talk show host, skilled interviewer, actress, producer, director, publisher and cultural phenomenon--accepted the Cecile B. DeMille award this week at the Golden Globes award ceremony. And, in a not unexpected move, she stole the show.

The speech was part lesson, part clarion call, and wholly a song--lyrical, gripping, something the crowd could join in on. I'd say kudos to the speechwriter, but suspect it was Winfrey herself, so naturally it flowed.

She started and ended the speech with little girls and the influence that can be had upon them:
In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother's house in Milwaukee watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for best actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope and said five words that literally made history: "The winner is Sidney Poitier." Up to the stage came the most elegant man I had ever seen. I remember his tie was white, and of course his skin was black, and I had never seen a black man being celebrated like that. I tried many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl, a kid watching from the cheap seats as my mom came through the door bone tired from cleaning other people's houses....In 1982, Sidney received the Cecil B. DeMille award right here at the Golden Globes and it is not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award.
Don't get the wrong idea: Oprah spent the fewest words in this speech about herself. She talked instead about women's stories:
And I'm especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories. Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell, and this year we became the story.
But it's not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It's one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics, or workplace. So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They're the women whose names we'll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they're in academia, engineering, medicine, and science. They're part of the world of tech and politics and business. They're our athletes in the Olympics and they're our soldiers in the military.
Even public speaking got its due: "Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared speak their truth to the power of those men...but their time is up."

The speech was followed by a flood of tweets calling on Oprah to run for president. Of course, we need more than one great speech to choose a president, in my view, but it says a lot about the leadership the audience heard and felt in this speech. And, as this piece points out, she wrote the speech to be about the unseen people, not about her supposed candidacy. Part celebratory romp, part history lesson, she drew all the threads of the evening's protests about sexual harassment together and made them poetic. What can you learn from this famous speech?
  •  Be ready for your big moment. Do I have to say this? I do. Many the honoree approaches the mic unprepared, which disrespects the award and the audience. Instead, you can do as Oprah did, and use the platform to further a cause and inspire those you hope to enlist in it.
  • Use symmetry: Oprah began with the image of herself as a little girl, watching the ceremony, and ended with a call to action for "all the girls watching here and now." Aside from the satisfaction of hearing a speech come full circle, the tactic drew Oprah closer to her audiences--the one in the room and the one watching at home. It's something at which she is a master.
  • Use slogans deftly and without sounding trite: "Me Too" and "Time's Up" were the slogans of the night, and they are scattered sparely in her speech in ways that make it seem as if they belong right there. The impact was greater as a result.
You can read the speech here and watch it here or below:

(Photo: Hollywood Foreign Press)


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Thursday, January 11, 2018

9 ideas to mix up your speaking in 2018

(Editor' s note: Reader and client Cate Huston-- an engineer, frequent speaker, and enthusiastic booster of getting more women in tech to speak-- offered this guest post sharing ways to switch it up when preparing talks as inspiration for you early in the new year. Thanks, Cate!)

Public speaking is scary, so it’s easy to get set in what we know works. This year, challenge yourself to mix it up! Not everything will work, but that’s okay - if we don’t try, we never know.

  1. Slides. Mix up your slide style! Try a totally different format, work with someone else to create them, or go without. 
  2. Format. Is your sweet spot 20 minutes? Challenge yourself to a 40 minute slot. Do you always rely on having a lot of time? See if you can give as good a talk in 20 minutes - or 5. Run a workshop! Co-present!  Or try something like Pecha Kucha or Ignite - the 5 minutes and auto-advance can be really tough!
  3. Role. Always the panelist, never the moderator? This could be the year. If you’ve never done it before, look for the opportunity to host or MC - it’s a very different experience.
  4. Topic. Maybe you’ve been giving “soft” talks - why not get really technical? Maybe technical talks seem safer, but why not challenge yourself to go beyond details - give a high level overview, or talk about a different interest or part of your role.
  5. Audience. Maybe you always talk at mobile, or PHP events - branch out and find a new audience at an event with a different theme! Maybe you present a lot internally - branch out and give a talk outside.
  6. Preparation style. Do you have a series of rituals when it comes to preparing a talk? A process involving sticky notes and weeks of preparation? Challenge yourself with a compressed timeframe or different approach (blog posts?) If finishing slides on the plane is part of your MO, challenge yourself to slide-freeze a week in advance. Things like a practise run at your company or a local meetup can force you out of the last minute preparation trap.
  7. Medium. Be a guest on a podcast (great way to extemporaneous speaking!), or record something straight to video (my video tip is this: practise without recording until you’re comfortable, then record when you’re ready. This has taken me from 20+ takes to 2). Speaking doesn’t just mean from stage.
  8. Constraints. You don’t have to agree to everything - decide what’s important to you and prioritize that - embrace constraints. Or, evaluate your internal constraints, if your gremlin is saying things like “I’m not ready to give an international talk”, you don’t have to listen to it!
  9. Social media. Schedule live tweets during your talk, or tweet teaser snippets of your prep. Turn your talk into a blog post, or use blog posts to build it up. There’s so many ways to blend your IRL talk with your digital presence.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Patti)

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

I read a lot about women and public speaking, and post my finds first on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook. But I always collect them h ere for you on Mondays as well. Here's what I've been reading lately:
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Famous Speech Friday: Dolores Ibárruri's 1939 speech ‘¡No Pasarán!’

(Editor's note: I found this famous speech covered at length on the blog of Imogen Morley, who writes about diplomatic relations and diplomacy, communications in the digital age, and speechwriting, and this post about a short but powerful radio address in Spain in the late 1930s combines a bit of all three subjects. It echoes the power of another of our Famous Speech Friday posts about Evita Peron's 1951 Renunciamiento, another great example of using radio for rhetorical success. And while this post differs from our usual FSF format, it's a fascinating take on a speech that caused a sensation. It's reprinted here with Morley's permission.
Morley published the post back in August 2017 with this introduction: "Something a bit different for this post. Last week in Charlottesville, Virginia, Heather Heyer died peacefully protesting against the kind of hateful and violent nationalism that should have long ago been consigned to history. Although this speech is from a very different time and context, I thought that highlighting the powerful words of another woman from another generation would be some small tribute to those who still stand up for democracy, freedom and human dignity. In recent days, ‘No Pasarán’ has been appearing on Twitter in response to the Barcelona terrorist attack. As this speech is very short – a battle cry, really – the analysis is also quite short. But it’s a fascinating speech from a fascinating woman who deserves to be more well known." Enjoy this guest Famous Speech Friday!)
La Pasionaria
Dolores Ibárruri was a Spanish communist politician and republican heroine of the Spanish Civil War. She was a force of nature: she had a fierce intellect and was considered a brilliant speaker. Her struggle against both the misogyny and poverty she grew up in, her willingness to speak up for the rights of women and workers, and her fearless protests against Franco and fascism, make her a heroine for all women wanting to find their own voice in the world.
Ibárruri was born in 1895 into family of miners in the Basque region of Spain, the eighth of eleven children. Despite showing a strong desire to learn – she later said she read anything she could lay her hands on – she left school at fifteen and worked as a seamstress, and later as a maid. At the age of twenty, she married Julián Ruiz, a miner and communist. In 1917, she became a member of Spanish Social Workers’ Party, and in 1921 a member of the Communist Party. Using the pseudonym La Pasionaria, she began writing articles for a miners’ newspaper and became active in the workers’ movement. She later separated from her husband and moved to Madrid. In 1930, she was voted onto the Central Committee of the Spanish Communist Party and was responsible for the party’s Women’s’ Commission. In the early 1930s, she became renowned for her brilliant and rousing speeches. As a member of the Cortes Generales (‘General Courts’ – the Spanish Parliament), she fought for women’s rights, especially in the areas of work and health.
The Speech
This speech was broadcast on Radio Madrid on 19th July 1939, as part of wider efforts to rally the citizens of Madrid against Franco’s nationalists, who were preparing to launch a military offensive on the city. The Communist Party knew that Ibárruri was a popular and persuasive figure. Her fiery and naturalistic style of delivery was perfectly suited to the moment. The battle cry, ‘¡No Pasarán!’ (‘They shall not pass’) quickly became a slogan for all those fighting against Franco’s fascist troops and is still used by activists in other contexts today. Ibárruri used it as the title for her autobiography, published in 1966. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, a member of Pussy Riot, even wore the slogan on a t-shirt during her trial in Russia.
At first, the speech gained little attention in the foreign press, despite being very popular in Spain itself. Slowly, however, foreign journalists started taking notice of Ibárruri and her speeches. In August 1936, the French writer Élie Faure, in an article for Regards magazine, describes watching Ibárruri giving a speech, saying he’d ‘never seen or heard anything like it’. Though she came from a family of miners, she was ‘aristocratic through and through’.
A Battle Cry to an Invisible Audience
It goes without saying that giving a speech on the radio is completely different to giving a speech in front of an audience. The audience will probably be larger, but they will either be alone or in small groups. And the point of this speech was to rally all the citizens of Madrid, not just left-wing fighters. How to find a battle cry for such an (invisible) audience? Ibárruri fosters a sense of kinship amongst her audience in three ways. Firstly, she binds all the differing political and social groups together, as Spanish citizens ‘loyal to the Republic’. For Spain’s future, they must all struggle together. Their identity as Spaniards, as ‘workers and farmers’, indeed ‘the people’, is more important than their individual identities. She urges them all to ‘stay true to the republican state and fight side by side with the workers, with the forces of the Popular Front, with your parents, your siblings and comrades’, here linking the kinship of a family with the kinship of a nation.’ Secondly, she turns the focus of the struggle onto those they are fighting against. They are ‘enemies of the republic’ and therefore enemies of all Spaniards. This creates a sense of kinship by setting all those ‘loyal’ to Spain, regardless of background, against those who wish to destroy it. And thirdly, she creates a sense of kinship amongst her audience by making them Spain itself. ‘All of Spain presents itself for battle’ she says. Unless the citizens act together, there will be no Spain, because Spain is its citizens.
The Historical Moment
Ibárruri also places her speech and Spain’s struggle in the historical moment. ‘The people,’ she says, ‘understand the graveness of this moment’. The very future of Spain demands that citizens fight the nationalist forces. Notice that she does not urge people to understand the importance of the moment. They already understand how critical this struggle is: the ‘workers and farmers from all Spanish provinces are joining in the struggle’Her speech contributes to a wider momentum. She refers twice to the violence in Asturias in 1934, when left-wing miners were attacked by troops from the local ruling right-wing party. First, she urges the women of Spain to ‘recall the heroism of the women of Asturias of 1934 and struggle alongside the men to defend the lives and freedom of your sons, overshadowed by the fascist menace’. Secondly, the nationalists are ‘the hangmen of October’. She persuades her audience that their actions are necessary by reminding them of the violence of their enemy. They are ‘the fascist foe, who drag through the mud the very same honourable military tradition that they have boasted to possess so many times’. They are not worthy of a place in Spain’s future. This local reference not only places this struggle in its political context, but also highlights Ibárruri’s own mining background. By making her speech and its message part of Spain’s historical narrative, she makes it part of history: a moment when which the Spanish people must stand up and play their part.
¡No Pasarán!
Screen Shot 2017-08-20 at 09.21.18
Contemporary Spanish right-wing poster (from ‘Große Reden – No Pasarán’ documentary)
This battle cry was originally used at the Battle of Verdun (1916) by the French military. So, by using these specific words, Ibárruri is (perhaps unintentionally) placing the struggle against Franco’s nationalists in the wider European historical and geographical narrative. But there’s another and more important reason Ibárruri used this phrase. It had recently appeared on right-wing posters in Spain. By using the phrase, Ibárruri turns her enemies’ own words against them.
Ibárruri uses the phrase three times in this short speech.
Firstly:
Under the battle cry ‘Fascism shall not pass; the hangmen of October shall not pass!’ workers and farmers from all Spanish provinces are joining in the struggle against the enemies of the Republic that have arisen in arms.
Ibárruri leaves her audience in no doubt what they ‘shall not pass’ means: it is a ‘battle cry’ for the violent ‘struggle’ against both the nationalist forces and the very idea of fascism itself. Note how she refers to ‘workers and farmers’, specific groups of people, rather than just an abstract image of Spanish citizens. She calls on her audience to participate actively in the struggle, not to simply support those who are fighting.
Secondly:
The whole country cringes in indignation at these heartless barbarians that would hurl our democratic Spain back down into an abyss of terror and death. However, THEY SHALL NOT PASS! For all of Spain presents itself for battle. 
Now ‘the whole country’, ‘all of Spain’ will not let the ‘heartless barbarians’ pass. Here Ibárruri reiterates the historical importance of this moment – the fascists who would ‘hurl our democratic Spain back down into an abyss of terror and death’. Note how she says ‘our Spain’. The nationalists are ‘barbarians’, not worthy of being called Spanish. As barbarians, they are enemies of civilization itself. And after creating an image of Spain made up of her citizens, the violent language of hurling the country ‘back down into an abyss’, the very earth – ‘mud’ – itself, serves to embody the threat, both to the lives of Spanish citizens and to Spain itself.
Thirdly:
Long live the Popular Front! Long live the union of all anti-fascists! Long live the Republic of the people! The Fascists shall not pass! THEY SHALL NOT PASS!
She ends with a rhetorical three-part list, each time increasing the size of the group, building up from small specific group ‘the Popular Front’, to ‘all anti-fascists’, to the ‘Republic of the people’. This ending mirrors the beginning of her speech and its call for all Spaniards to unite in the struggle. The Spanish people will stand shoulder to shoulder and the fascists ‘shall not pass’.
Aftermath
Despite the mobilisation of Madrid’s citizens, Franco’s nationalists besieged the city in October 1936, whicheventually fell on 28th March 1939. Francoist propaganda made fun of Ibárruri’s famous battle cry, writing songs about how ‘No Pasarán’ was no longer true. But these songs have not survived the test of history. What have survived are Ibárruri’s words: a battle cry for freedom, for democracy and for the defeat of fascism.
Ibárruri left Spain in 1939, eventually gaining asylum in the USSR. She remained active in left-wing politics, working for the Spanish Communist Party in exile and writing article and books. She returned to Spain in 1977 at the age of 80 and became active in Spanish politics until her death in 1989.
She was, at times, a divisive figure. She was a lifelong committed Stalinist and often critical of other left-wing organisations. But today she is almost exclusively remembered as a symbol for the resistance to Franco’s fascism. She was, unmistakably, a remarkable woman who endured great personal loss. Four of her six children died young, apparently due to the family’s extreme poverty; her surviving son died during the Second World War. She fought for women’s rights in both the home and at work. She was a fearless and heartfelt public speaker, as well as a fiercely intelligent politician, at a time when women were almost universally barred from politics. She fought for freedom and democracy, for the rights of all citizens and for a better life. If she were alive today, she would surely be standing shoulder to shoulder with those still fighting (and dying) for human freedom and dignity.
The full text of the speech in Spanish is available here. The English translation I have used is available here. A German translation is available here.
(Dolores Ibárruri in 1936 – photo by Mikhail Koltsov via WikiCommons)
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.