'There is a serious prospect that, in our time, we are losing faith in politics. The words of politicians float by, practised and polished but profligate. The respect, veneration and hope first expressed by Pericles has gone missing. It is the grand purpose of this book to help to call it back.'
In his work as a speechwriter to senior politicians and business leaders around the world, Philip Collins has become well versed in understanding what it is that makes a speech great.
When They Go Low, We Go High explores the ways in which the most notable speeches in history have worked, analysing the rhetorical tricks to uncover how the right speech at the right time can profoundly shape the world.
Travelling across continents and centuries, Collins reveals what Thomas Jefferson owes to Cicero and Pericles, who really gave the Gettysburg Address and what Elizabeth I shares with Winston Churchill.
And in telling the story of the great speeches, he tells the story of democracy. For it is in the finest public speeches that progress unfolds, and we need those speeches now more than ever.
While we are bombarded by sound bites and social media, fake news and sloganeering, and while populists are winning support, democratic politicians need to find words that inspire and give us hope. Because disenchantment with politics fosters the dangerous illusion that there is an alternative.
Informed by Collins' own experiences as a speechwriter, When They Go Low, We Go High is a passionate defence of the power of good public speaking to propagate and protect democracy and an urgent reminder of how words can change the world.
An excellent history of political rhetoric skilfully tied into current events. The selection of speeches is excellent (and generally performed well by separate actors) but the real strength of the book is in Philip Collins’ own analysis and interpretation.