The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say—we will never forgive you.
- Greta Thunberg—age 16—to world leaders
at the UN Climate Summit on September 23, 2019.
They say… that us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works. We call BS.
- Emma Gonzáles—age 18—at a demonstration
in the wake of the mass shooting at her high school.
Now, more than ever, young people are speaking up, delivering words that catalyze social change, inspire movements, and spark courage. Like a favorite song or mantra, powerful speeches are burned into our collective memories, resonating across generations and geographies. From Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I have a Dream
to Greta Thunberg’s United Nation’s Address
, speeches have a special power to capture a moment in time and give meaning that establishes a historical record.
Introducing the JFK Library
This month, we are partnering with the JFK Library
to celebrate the power of the spoken word. As you consider a topic, check out the Library’s vast selection of resources, many of which highlight the intellectual and political history of the 35th President of the United States. As a place to start, we recommend taking a look at this speech from early in JFK’s career, on the right to housing for all Americans
or watching his oft-quoted 1960 Acceptance Speech at Democratic Convention
or the 1961 Inaugural address
. Hearing a speech illuminates the importance of voice, intonation and cadence, and demonstrates just how powerful the written word becomes when delivered aloud.
We Want To Hear From You
What does our current moment call for, dear writers? At a time when people around the world are confronting health, financial, social, and environmental upheaval, your voices—on what matters to you
—are urgently needed. As Guest Judge Sarah Hurwitz says, “Say something true.” In other words, dear writers, build your speech from what is true and meaningful to your life. Review the guidelines and resources below, and then submit a written and/or recorded entry. We can’t wait to listen to your words.
Speech Writing Guidelines
How to Record and Submit an Audio File (optional)
- BEGIN WITH A PURPOSE. Before you start writing, ask yourself what it is you really want to communicate. What are you passionate about? What cause or position do you hope others will join you in promoting? What is the message you hope to convey, and why is it so important?
- IDENTIFY YOUR AUDIENCE. Who are you speaking to? What you say in your speech will vary depending on whether your listeners are familiar with the topic, and aligned with your purpose already or fiercely against it. Do you imagine delivering this speech to your community? Your country? Your generation? World leaders?
- BE HUMAN. Your audience wants to connect with you, personally, and understand why the subject at hand is important to you. Consider telling a story, or sharing experiences and emotions that reflect your connection to the topic.
- WRITE THE WAY YOU TALK. As Sarah Hurwitz recommends, your speech need not be composed of perfect grammar and complete sentences. Your audience wants to hear your voice ring true.
- CONSIDER LITERARY DEVICES. Remember that all your favorite elements of creative writing are still in your toolbox, so use them! Great speech writers rely on devices such as alliteration and metaphor to make their words all the more memorable.
- CONSIDER REPETITION. Because your audience is hearing your words instead of reading them, repetition can serve as a powerful reminder of your message. Write with rhythm that catches the ear.
- READ ALOUD… OFTEN. Words that are written to be spoken are charged with a particular power—crafted to come alive when delivered to an audience. Make sure to read your speech aloud as you draft and revise.
- START WITH A BANG. We’ve all zoned out when listening to a hum-drum public speaker. Pique the interest of your audience early with a thought-provoking statement, anecdote, or question.
- CLOSE WITH A BANG. Rather than repeating your main point, build on the foundation you’ve already established, and end your speech with a call-to-action or a new idea that inspires listeners to join the cause.
- READ ALOUD… AGAIN. Make sure to read that final draft aloud, practicing with pauses, emphasis, and body language.
This month, we'll award a prize for the best spoken delivery as well as one for the best written speech. If you’d like to create an audio/video version, you may use any platform of your choice—simply copy the link within the text of your submission. Some options to consider:
Please note that these are public platforms and are not affiliated with WtW. If you need assistance getting started, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who is Eligible?
Young writers ages 13-18
600 – 1,000 words
From 2009 to 2017, Sarah Hurwitz served as a White House speechwriter, first as a senior speechwriter for President Barack Obama and then as head speechwriter for First Lady Michelle Obama. Prior to serving in the Obama Administration, Sarah was chief speechwriter for Hillary Clinton on her 2008 presidential campaign. Sarah is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law school, and she is the author of Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life – in Judaism (After Finally Choosing to Look There).
What’s Different about Write the World Competitions?
- Best Written Entry: $100 (Our Guest Judge’s commentary on the winning piece, and an interview with the author will be featured on Write the World’s blog)
- Best Delivered Speech: $100 (Our Guest Judge’s commentary on the winning entry, and an interview with the author will be featured on Write the World’s blog)
- Runner up: $50 (Our Guest Judge’s commentary on the piece will be featured on Write the World’s blog)
- Best Peer Review: $50 (Our Guest Judge’s commentary on the best peer review and an interview with the reviewer will be featured on Write the World’s blog)
- Prizes: The winning entrants will receive $100, and the runner-up and best peer-reviewer will receive $50.
- Professional Recognition: The winning entries, plus the runner-up and best peer review, will be featured on our blog, with commentary from our Guest Judge.
- Expert Review: Submit your draft by Monday, October 12 and get feedback from our team of experts—authors, writing teachers, and educational professionals.
- October 5: Competition Opens
- October 12: Submit draft for Expert Review (Optional. We will review the first 100 drafts submitted.)
- October 16: Reviews returned to Writers
- October 20: Final Submissions Due
- October 30: Winners Announced
Our Novel Writing Competition opens Monday, November 2nd.
Stay tuned for more details!
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