The other day I downloaded the December issue of Vital Speeches of the Day, the highly-esteemed monthly digest that proudly publishes “the best thinking by the world’s keenest minds.”
I was stunned to see that all ten of the featured speeches were … by men.
Whaaaat – no women? Where was OUR best thinking? OUR keenest minds?
My dismay led to an amicable exchange with the publisher and editor, David Murray – see here and here – who acknowledges that the gender ratio on his pages is “not where we’d like to be.” He’s committed to do better.
I’m inspired to think bigger.
Today I’m announcing a new initiative called Keynote Women. It will be an online women’s speech bank, a repository of female oratory across time and from around the world. Nothing like it currently exists, and it’s way overdue. By showcasing videos and transcripts of women’s speeches, Keynote Women will celebrate the very best of women’s voices and wisdom through the ages.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, Eleanor Roosevelt, Barbara Jordan – they’ll all be there. So will younger, less familiar voices like Rachael Denhollander, Lidia Thorpe, Claire Lehmann, Mhairi Black, and Greta Thunberg – plus hundreds more.
We’ll have Women’s March speeches and March for Life speeches. Women debating issues like nuclear power, child labor, international relations, feminism and anti-feminism, sex ed, cyber-harassment, social welfare, taxation, war, and climate change. Women of different ages, races, classes, ethnicities, geographic regions and political persuasions.
That’s what power sounds like today.
When I began to think about creating Keynote Women, I turned to the many speech anthologies lined up on my bookshelf. Thumbing through them, I could see that women’s voices have been completely overlooked. Women have been almost entirely absent from the history of public speaking.
Some say this makes sense given the disproportionate lack of women in positions of power and authority. That’s the “more descriptive than proscriptive” argument of recorded history. I’m not buying it.
Today there are 121 women serving in the US Congress. Around the world 20 women lead their country or government. Women are running top universities, philanthropies, corporations, think tanks, media outlets, taking center stage in every professional sphere. They’re highly visible.
In the spring of 2018, according to AP News, a majority of the nation’s top colleges featured women as their commencement speaker.
Their words matter.
They matter especially to younger generations. In high schools across America, young women make up more than 70 percent of class valedictorians. Let’s encourage them to keep speaking up. Let’s inspire them with compelling examples of women’s oratory. Let’s give them role models of women who use their voices to advocate for change.
My wish is that every young woman and girl – from Kentucky to Kenya to Kuala Lumpur – will access this site and discover what a powerful woman looks and sounds like.
Keynote Women site is still under construction, but you can check us out and sign up – that way you’ll be the first to know when we launch.
Let’s send a message to women everywhere, and to the world. Our voices matter.
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Want to talk? Reach me at email@example.com