“I have a new assignment – I have to give a famous speech” she complains bitterly, kicking her backpack as if the backpack had set the assignment.
Yes, this is traumatic. What on earth are they teaching the kids at school these days? It’s an outrage!
“Well, who do you want to choose then?” I ask, moving things right along.
“I want to choose a famous speech from a woman.” She says as if there were no other choice.
That’s my girl I think to myself. Perfect, my daughter will learn from the strength of a woman who has gone before, a strong, confident woman, inspiring her to be all that she can be. Yes, yes I thought to myself, this will go in the exact direction I am planning for it to go…..
Right, so, famous female speeches famous female speeches………hmmmmm, “Well let’s have a little think about this then.” I stall. The only famous female speech jumping to mind in that moment was Marianne Williamson’s “who are your NOT to shine your light?’…….. (At that point I was happy to shine it or anyone elses, if I could only find it!)
I fumbled a little, “Why can’t I think of any?” I questioned out loud as I brought to attention the lack of famous female speeches that simply would not jump to mind. So I started listing off famous women in general – beginning with of course Mother Theresa. I find Mother Theresa is a good place to begin for many things. Then there’s all the standouts -Amelia Earhart, Helen Keller, Cleopatra, Simone de Beauvoir, Marie Antoinette, Georgia O’Keeffe, Princess Dianna, and let’s not forget Lady Gaga and Betty White.
But oddly enough I couldn’t think of any of them having given a famous speech. I mean, of course they said a lot of wise things. I’m sure those who listened learned, and often became better people because of these women, but a recorded speech that is known by many?
Now, no doubt I will get a flurry of comments letting me know a gazillion famous female speeches, so let’s just get it out there now – I don’t know everything. So I did what most other not-so-totally-all-knowing-mothers would do. I told my daughter to jump on line and Google “famous speeches given by women”. And if you have ever googled this you will know that the first site you visit will have a pop up add for “swifers”. Yes because mopping a floor has just so much to do with famous woman…..anyway, I digress. As we scrolled down the list, my daughter asked in somewhat of a moaning tone “Do you know this one? How about this one, ever heard it?”
I had to admit, that no infact I could not recite Marie Curie’s famous speech about the discovery of Radium, nor Sarah Brady’s famous speech on the signing of the “Brady gun control bill.” Nor did I know Katherine O’Regan’s oh so famous speech while she was the New Zealand minister of consumer affairs – I know……..where have I been right?
My daughter’s frustration with this “whole stupid assignment” had maxed out so we called it a day. I had a wrestles sleep that night thinking of all the voiceless women in history, about all the lost lessons and woke determined to find the exact right speech for my little girl to learn. The speech that would remain with her through years to come, familiar words of greatness in uncertain times, encouraging her to push through in moments of hardship. Yes, I would search “famous women speeches” till my fingers bled so that my daughter could become a woman of strength and resolve.
“Hey” she casually called out from the computer the next morning. “I found a speech.”
“Oh yeah, who did you pick?” I asked, curious as to what amazing woman captured my little girl’s heart, who would become her inspiration through life?
Oh just some woman called “Jane Addams.”
“What was her famous speech on” I asked,
Squinting her eyes to read she read out “The subjective necessity for social settlements in 1892”
‘Huh…..why did you pick her?” I wondered. Why did this particular woman speak to her, I was excited to see what this woman ignited in my daughter, what passions were stirred….
“Oh I dunno, she just looks easy to dress up as.” A simple sketch of a woman with her hair in a bun and button up shirt stared blankly at us. (Yes – because that’s what’s important)
A collective sigh from the voiceless women throughout history passed through my soul like death itself. Yet together we picked ourselves up to embraced my daughter in that moment. We were determined that her unsure voice, regardless of what she had to say and why, would at least be heard today.