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Stellar Speeches #1: Women with Words

During this time of turmoil, it is important to stay motivated and inspired at home. Therefore, Seek to Speak is starting a new biweekly series called “Stellar Speeches” in which we chronicle a collection of speeches connected by a common theme. This series is intended to share impressive speeches that excite, embolden, and educate!

This week’s theme is “Women with Words” where we see amazing women share their struggles and accomplishments in their respective fields.

1) Teach girls bravery, not perfection 

Reshma Saujani, the founder of “Girls Who Code” and author of “Brave, not Perfect”, talks about the value of bravery in a world where women were taught to be perfect, not bold. See here for her podcast on encouraging women to be brave. 

“It means our economy is being left behind on all the innovation and problems women would solve if they were socialized to be brave instead of socialized to be perfect.”

2) Black Beauty Essence 2014

Lupita Nyong’o, an award-winning actress from Kenya, talked about her struggles with beauty, growing up as a dark-skinned girl. Her speech at ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon 2014 inspired many young black women to pursue their dreams and to redefine what it means to be beautiful.

“And my mother again would say to me, “You can’t eat beauty. It doesn’t feed you.” And these words plagued and bothered me; I didn’t really understand them until finally I realized that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume, it was something that I just had to be.”

3) HeForShe Campaign 2014

Emma Watson, U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador and beloved Harry Potter cast, made a game-changing speech in 2014 in support of U.N.’s “HeforShe” campaign. Her speech reframed the feminist movement and inspired men around the world to participate in the fight for gender equality. 

“It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals. If we stop defining each other by what we are not, and start defining ourselves by who we are, we can all be freer, and this is what HeForShe is about. It’s about freedom.”

4) Cecil B. deMille Award 2018 

Oprah Winfrey, the first black woman to receive the Golden Globes’ Cecil B. deMille Award, needs no introduction. Her speech during the award ceremony brought the audience to their feet, and for some, tears to their eyes. Speaking on Hollywood’s sexual harassment scandal and the #MeToo movement, Oprah Winfrey spoke of a new era of women empowerment.

“For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up. Your time is up.”

5) Harvard Business School’s 2012 Commencement Address  

Sheryl Sandberg, founder of the “LeanIn” movement and chief operating officer of Facebook, is a familiar face in the women’s rights movement with her TED talk on women leadership garnering 2.9million views on YouTube. However, her commencement address to Harvard Business School is one that really inspired young graduates to fight for representation in the boardroom.

“We will not close the leadership gap until we close the professional ambition gap. We need more women not just to sit at the table, but as President Obama said a few weeks ago at Barnard, to take their rightful seats at the head of the table.”


Do you have a favourite speech or interesting theme to suggest? Please leave a comment or drop a message and we will be sure to include the video in the next Stellar Speeches Series.

Blast from the Past!
In 1872, women’s rights activist, Susan B Anthony, was arrested for voting in her hometown. This video reenacts the speech given by her to fight for women’s equal rights to vote, granted by the constitution.
Local Context
Marina Mahathir is a women’s rights activist in Malaysia and the founder of Zafigo, a helpful resource for female travelers. Here is Marina Mahathir’s 2016 TED Talk on Muslim women where she urges listeners to ditch religious stereotypes.