Writing Speeches

I have characters who have to give speeches. I’m sure most authors have this problem. How do you write a speech, really?

Here’s a speech from my character Rik van der Gelder after the conviction and initial sentencing by tribunal of the would-be warlord, Soong. I worked on this for almost two days, and I still hate it. But I think it’s as good as I could do at the time. Maybe I could make it better now, but that ship has sailed.

My fellows in the United Planets, I want you to think about what it means to have freedom and to be a society dedicated to justice and peace. I want you to think about what our fundamental principles mean today, and every day, to each one of us. I want you to think about
what it is we have been fighting for. Not only do we enjoy the fruits of these beliefs, but we are also bound by the responsibility of fidelity to them, no matter how difficult that may be.

It’s obvious that the worlds of the United Planets have been wronged, terribly and unforgivably, by one insane man’s ruthless pursuit of personal power, and by many others who blindly followed him. Stories like this have played out in human civilizations for all of our recorded history. In some cases, the result was remembered by historians as positive and unifying, and in others as despicable acts of senseless aggression.

We all know, objectivity, that many of the formative moments of our civilization’s history could be viewed in either of these two polar opposite ways. In each case, whether the ‘good guys’ or the ‘bad guys’ triumphed our civilization eventually moved on.

I don’t suggest we eliminate punishment for those responsible for the deaths and destruction we’ve all endured for the last seven years. Nor do I believe we should grant clemency. But I ask you to consider, in your mind and conscience and heart if a society such as ours, dedicated to justice and peace as we claim we are, should mete out punishments as brutal and barbaric as those that have been prescribed by the Tribunal today.

Do we believe in justice? Of course — it is fundamental. Is punishment for these war crimes just? There’s no doubt that it is. Consider the following critical question: Does the proposed punishment
sound like justice? Or does it sound like an angry mob’s mass animal instinct to seek revenge?

Thank you for your attention.