Ed / Uncategorized

Powerful words: the inauguration, Brexit, Obama, and Winston Churchill

At the inauguration today, Donald J Trump will say the thirty-five words that transform him from president elect into the 45th president of the United States of America. His first speech as president will carry more weight than anything he has said before, coming in the same week that Theresa May delivered her vision for a hard Brexit. Across the globe, these speeches will be dissected and analysed in minute detail on radio, television and social media.

We are, by now, used to political spin from which we all draw our own conclusions, yet sometimes it can be hard to hear the true meaning behind the words. Being able to read the speeches in full and contemplate their meaning alongside careful analysis by historians and impartial commentators can help us understand the wider implications of the speeches and to grasp their full intent.

9781408889077We Are the Change We Seek
is a collection of Barack Obama’s twenty-six greatest addresses: beginning with his 2002 speech opposing the Iraq War and closing with his final speech before the United Nations in September 2016.  The ebook edition will soon be updated to include Obama’s Farewell Address given in Chicago in January 2017.  Obama’s words had the power to move the country, and often the world, as few presidents before him. Whether acting as Commander in Chief or Consoler in Chief, Obama adopted a unique rhetorical style that could simultaneously speak to the national mood and change the course of public events. Obama’s eloquence, both written and spoken, propelled him to national prominence and ultimately made it possible for the son of a Kenyan man and a white woman from Kansas to become the first black president of the United States. Here you will have the chance to read and reflect on his impact on the world through his speeches.

Churchill's LegacyChurchill’s Legacy: Two Speeches to Save the World looks back to an equally unsettled time in our recent history: 1946, the year after the end of WWII and after Churchill lost the General Election.  Despite – or perhaps because of – being out of power, Churchill gave two speeches in 1946 which went on to create the political architecture for the whole postwar period.  Both speeches are reproduced in full alongside clear and insightful commentary by Alan Watson, High Steward of Cambridge University and Churchill historian, who puts them into context. He describes how Churchill wielded his influence in postwar politics to enable the restoration of Europe through his speech in Fulton, known as the Iron Curtain speech, and in Zurich, known as the United States of Europe speech.  Having first helped bring victory to the Allies in 1945, Churchill went on to preserve the freedom of the world by gaining the support of the United States. In Fulton, Churchill alerted America to the reality of ‘Uncle Joe’ – a tyrant determined to dominate Europe at any cost. In Zurich, Churchill boldly proposed a partnership between France and Germany: a United States of Europe, unimaginable at that time with the Nuremberg trials underway.

To understand what Churchill intended with these two speeches requires perspective. The daring of his imagination and the scale of his architecture for a new Western Alliance was extraordinary.

Whatever Donald Trump says in his first speech after those powerful thirty-five words, you can be sure that it will resonate for many years to come.


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