Wednesday, 30 November 2011


Do you listen to and/or (later) read speeches given by those accepting awards? I hasten to note that I am not writing on my own behalf here, at least not as the recipient of an award and therefore not as the giver of such a speech. I am writing as someone listening to/reading such a speech given by someone else.

What do you want to hear (if anything) in such a speech? Let's say the speaker has 5-10 minutes (maybe less) to cram in all the thank-yous  and personal history things that are necessary and expected, but perhaps there is a bit of time -- a minute or three -- to go beyond the ritual thanks.

Do you want them to talk about Research -- for example, their perspective on what is interesting in their field? More about their Life -- professional and/or personal? Pitfalls (in addition to Successes)? Important cats?

What makes a good speech? Should it be somehow different and memorable, or just try for the usual heartfelt thanks to those who helped along the way?

In the last couple of years, I heard at least one award-acceptance speech that took a political detour after the ritual thanking of mentors and students. The speech could have been interpreted as being highly critical of people in the audience with particular citizenship/political views. Responses that I heard ranged from

"Whatever -- he can say whatever he wants; it's his award and his speech" to

"Why go nuclear with strong political views and criticize innocent people in a friendly audience? We aren't responsible for the decisions of governments and behavior of politicians" to

specific rebuttals of the political statements ("He's wrong because..").

At least the speech was memorable. I suppose the other way to be memorable -- if that is your goal -- is to say something really bizarre. Or, instead of thanking those who helped you along the way, you could list all the people you hate the most.

If you have heard or read a memorable award-acceptance speech (for positive or negative reasons), what was memorable about it?

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