When They Go Low, We Go High

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What is it that makes a speech great? Why do we need speeches at all? Informed by Philip Collins’s own experiences as a speech writer, When They Go Low, We Go High (Fourth Estate, 2017) 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.

In a book launch at the Blavatnik School, Philip Collins will present his publication, with a Q&A to follow. The event will be moderated by Chris Deerin, political columnist and journalist. The book will be on sale at the event.

About the book
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 when 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.

About the author
Philip Collins (@PCollinsTimes) 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.

Blavatnik School of Government,
University of Oxford