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Finest Hour 69

Seven Lessons in Speechmaking From One of the Greatest Orators of All Time


By Thomas Montalbo, DTM
Finest Hour 69

He wasn't a natural orator, not at all. His voice was raspy. A stammer and a lisp often marred many of his speeches. Nor was his appearance attractive. A snub nose and a jutting lower lip made him look like a bulldog. Short and fat, he was also stoop-shouldered.

Yet this man—Sir Winston Churchill—became probably the greatest orator of our time and won the Nobel Prize for his writings and "brilliant oratory." How did he do it? And what lessons can all Toastmasters learn from him to help them make better speeches?

In school, Winston Churchill was a backward student. But he wasn’t stupid. He later explained, "Where my reason, imagination or interest were not engaged, I would not or I could not learn." But the English language fascinated him. He was the best in his class.

Macaulay and Gibbon, two of England’s most famous historians, dazzled him with their styles of writing. The impact these authors made on his mind stayed with him for life, as his speeches show. Because their styles were markedly different and yet both charmed him, he believed this showed, as he put it, "What a fine language English is. . ."

His English teacher once said, "I do not believe that I have ever seen in a boy of 14 such a veneration for the English language." Churchill called the English sentence "a noble thing" and said, "The only thing I would whip boys for is not knowing English. I would whip them hard for that." Lord Moran, his physician and intimate friend, wrote:

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