Valarie Kaur is my new hero. In six minutes, she managed to deliver a rousing speech that made me want to cheer and cry at the same time. Today I’m going to “unpack” Valarie’s talk and help you understand the techniques she used to create an extraordinary speech. Have a look at the video and then let’s continue....
Valarie began by being transparent. She told the story of her grandfather, who had been thrown in jail when he tried to immigrate to America because he looked “foreign.” Then she brought it even closer to home and discussed her fear of raising her young son, “a brown boy”, in an age of hate and racial violence here in the U.S. She lets us see her emotion around this topic - we hear the quavering in her voice and see the pain on her face.
Note that she doesn’t need to “act” sad, or angry - she simply lets us see her true feelings as they are happening. Her transparency brings down our defenses and makes us more likely to embrace her message as opposed to resist it.
She continues with vivid description and a metaphor. Because Valarie has chosen her words carefully, we can easily imagine her grandfather “languishing” in his “dark and dank cell” and the care in which her son “ceremoniously” sets out milk and cookies for Santa Clause. We get angry about racism right along with her when she describes how “black bodies are still seen as criminal” and “indigenous bodies are still seen as savage.” We see and feel because she’s taken the time to paint a picture with her words.
She also uses a guiding metaphor,the birth process. She mentions again the darkness of our times, the darkness of her grandfather’s cell, and then in a moment of poetic brilliance, asks “What if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb?” That line brings down the house! Why? First, it ties everything together, even down to the mention of her son’s birth. Second, it has repetition, rhythm and rhyme - simply put, it sounds great. And finally, it’s a phrase so vivid and positive that we are instantly moved from despair to hope. This leads me to my next point.
Valarie brings hope.
In spite of all of the depressing and painful truths that Valarie has touched on, she helps the audience envision another way. After suggesting that our darkness might be one of coming light, she uses repetition, another literary device, to drive home her point. She asks a series of “what if” questions that inspire us to imagine that we might all be part of something bigger and that perhaps we are actually standing at the forefront of a great moment in history.
And then she references transition, that point in childbirth when the energy shifts, and suggests that perhaps our nation has been in transition. Employing her birth metaphor one final time, she passionately entreats the audience to be brave, to push, to work, and to labor in love. And if you are anything like me, that is the moment when you'll be cheering and crying at the same time.
This talk is an incredible example of what you can achieve with powerful words delivered well.
You can learn more about Valarie Kaur, her amazing work and the transformative speeches she gives here.
If you know someone who could use a little inspiration, hit one of the share buttons below. And if you’d like to learn to create uplifting presentations like Valarie’s, go here to schedule a session with me.