Claire Duffy's blog about public speaking and communication (in real life). Speak well, do well!
The transformation of Anzac day from a day off work with two-up, into a serious day of reflection on our national war history has been remarkable. As a cynical 13 year old, swishing away the flies at the local War Memorial, I recall thinking that the Diggers would all be dead soon, and we would then be spared our annual Anzac Assembly. I could not have been more wrong. Anzac day is big, and getting bigger. It’s our only highly ceremonial occasion, with identical rituals being performed at dawn here and abroad, in small communities and large. It’s meaningful, and offers serious food for thought on important moral, social and political questions.
But do the words of our leaders do it justice?
Here are three examples for you. Post a comment to tell me which you like best and why.
It tells the story of the catastrophe in poetic language, deftly weaving in respect for the Turks, and builds to a climax that could have been crass but is heartbreaking.
“In this place, they taught us to regard Australia and nowhere else as home.
Here where they longed for the shape and scent of the gum leaf and the wattle, not the rose or the elm.
Where they remembered places called Weipa and Woolloomooloo, Toowoomba and Swan Hill.
Or the sight of Mt Clarence as their ships pulled away from Albany, for so many the last piece of Australian soil they would ever live to see.
This is the legend of Anzac, and it belongs to every Australian.”
I didn’t like the hat, and I wish she would lift her eyes when she ends a paragraph – we want to be held, not disconnected while she finds the next sentence, but it was great.
Winston Peters was a maverick New Zealand MP but there’s an unspoilt sincerity to his words at the 2008 service which sent chills up my spine. So what if he mispronounces “Auden”, the device he sets up – getting Auden’s soldier to ask if the world they fought for is the one we’ve now got, is brilliant. Start at 3.58 if you don’t want to hear the whole thing.
And finally, Paul Keating‘s great eulogy for the unknown soldier. In my view there’s been none better than him since him. This is an incredible speech, with its repetitions, and contrasts and triads – the ‘mad brutal awful’ war, and the shocking simplicity of the conclusion. They were the ordinary people who were not ordinary. Taste this:
“We do not know his age or his circumstances – whether he was from the city or the bush; what occupation he left to become a soldier; what religion, if he had a religion; if he was married or single. We do not know who loved him or whom he loved. If he had children we do not know who they are. His family is lost to us as he was lost to them. We will never know who this Australian was…. His tomb is a reminder of what we have lost in war and what we have gained.”