A TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR
‘For all those who believe in the politics of principle and hope this a wonderful reminder that they do not always lose. For all those who despair that politics can ever be inspiring again this is a must-read to shake you out of your misery’ Paddy Ashdown
‘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’s own experiences as a speech writer, 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.
About the author
Philip Collins is a columnist for The Times and an Associate Editor of Prospect magazine. He was Chief Speech Writer to Prime Minister Tony Blair in 10 Downing Street between 2004 and 2007 and has subsequently written keynote speeches for a range of senior politicians, leaders of charities and NGOs and Chief Executive Officers. Mr Collins is the author of The Art of Speeches and Presentations and pioneered the analysis of major speeches in The Times.