The Best Quotes From Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln: 21 Powerful Secrets of History’s Greatest Speakers


Do you ever have to get up and do a speech? Well, if so, I’d highly recommend reading Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln: 21 Powerful Secrets of History’s Greatest Speakers. The book was written by James Humes, who has been a speechwriter to five Presidents, including Ronald Reagan. Here are the best quptes from Humes’ excellent book,

Whether you’re presenting a new club president, introducing a speaker, making the brief remarks at a ceremonial function, or talking to a chamber of commerce, state some silence before you speak. — P.2

Effective speakers of today emulate history’s greatest when they make that opening sentence count. — P.7

Churchill once explained that praise in the beginning of a talk sounds like flattery whereas the same praise wedged into the middle of the speech comes off as sincerity. — P.10

Keep your style simple but the same! Think of Barbara Bush and her hallmark white pearls that complemented her white hair. Then adopt a style that suits you — and that people will indentify with you. — P.19

You ought to be able to put the bottom-line message on the inside of a matchbook – before you ever start at your typewriter. — (Fred Fox) — p.26

Demosthenes, the greatest of Athenian orators, was asked what the three tests of a great speech were. He replied: “Action, action, and action!” He advised would-be speakers to first think what they wanted their audience to do and build around that action. — P.28

Ronald Reagan once regaled a group of us with a story about the best sermon he had ever heard. He was a boy in Dixon, Illinois, attending church on what must have been the hottest day of the year. Reagan said:

Eggs could have been fried on the steps of the Civil War Memorial in the Dixon town square, and the humidity was so thick that you could have ladled it out like soup.

When it came time for the sermon the preacher mounted the steps to the pulpit and faced the congregation. He pointed downward and said, “It’s hotter down there,” and then descended from the pulpit. That was his sermon! — P.33

Leadership sometimes means surprising your audience. If they are settling into their seats anticipating a twenty or thirty-minute speech, astonish them by speaking for only five minutes. That is a Power Brief. Terse is far better than tedious! Being short-winded comes off far better than being long-winded. What is the greatest speech ever delivered? Many say the Gettysburg Address. How long was it? Two minutes. — P.35

The second rule (of quotes), which I call the “General Rule” is this: The name should be recognizable and the quotations brief. — P.45

Speech is theater. So dig up one apt quotation and frame it with props. — P.47

Use only one quotation per speech, and dramatize it. Stage it, perform it, act it out! Put power into your quotation! — P.49

Any talk or presentation should be the oral projection of your personality, experiences, and ideas. Empahsize oral projection, not mechanical projection. No inanimate screen can match a flesh-and-blood presentation. — P.64

Aristotle once wrote, “The essence of humor is surprise.” If that is so, why attempt to be funny when everyone is expecting it? Instead, sneak an amusing story into the middle of the talk, when it is sure to provide some sort of comic relief. — P.71

Follow the three R’s of presenting humor — make it Realistic, make it Relevant, and don’t Read it! — P.73

Churchill, in his “scaffolding of Rhetoric” notes, said that an abstract idea goes in one ear and out the other — never establishing itself unless it is reinforced by a picture or story. Turn concepts into concrete if you want them to be understood and remembered. — P.89

The first rule of effective speaking, Cokrane told both Churchill and Roosevelt, is this: Never, never, never let words come out of your mouth when your eyes are looking down. — P.108

Look down and see the words. Bring your head up and stop for a second. Then say the line in your own words. Why must you pause after you bring your head up? Because most speakers start to speak while their heads are moving up. They think the pause has been too long so are anxious to start speaking again. But by taking that extra second pause, you fool the audience into thinking you are just glancing at notes and not actually reading the speech. — P.111-112

In every line an actor delivers, said (Emlyn) Williams, you’ll find one word that carries the thrust of the statement. You can discover that word if you mumble every other word of the line but clearly pronounce that key word. Pause before offering that word. — P.151

The passive (voice) is for the “cover your ass” types. But the active voice is for the take-charge leaders. The passive is not the voice of a leader. The passive is the voice of the bureacrat who wants to duck responsibility. — P.159

(Benjamin) Franklin said this about requesting donations: “What is the most you think you can ask for? Then double it! Don’t base your request on how much he will give you but on how much you will need! — P.165

Even if your talk has been flat, you can still leave the audience roused with a good closer. For such a strong ending, said Churchill, you have to appeal to the emotions — pride, hope, love, and, occasionally, fear. — p.176

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