You know those speeches that go down in history as being inspiring, amazing and, for many, life-changing? Think the ‘I have a dream’ speech by Martin Luther King, Emmeline Pankhurst’s ‘Freedom or Death’, or Churchill’s ‘We Shall Fight on the Beaches’. We remember them for a reason: because they made a difference and still make a difference now.
Last summer, I was lucky enough to listen to what I felt to be the most incredible speech ever.
I was at a UK Youth Parliament annual sitting, where several speeches were on the programme over several days. For this particular one, all we knew was that it was going to be a woman talking to us about some community project. We’d already listened to The Rt Hon John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons. He’d given us a pretty fantastic talk, and we felt that there was no way this older woman could beat him with a community project.
When she stepped up on the stage, we felt we’d been right. This was going to be a boring hour. We settled down in our seats and started to shuffle our programmes.
And then Pam Warhurst began to speak.
She didn’t have the slow, carefully measured inflection of Mr. Speaker. She didn’t have an elegantly phrased, neatly ordered speech prepared.
Instead, she was like a human whirlwind. She strode up and down that stage, speaking so rapidly we had to sit up and really concentrate, bursting with fiery enthusiasm and belief in her cause. She was hilarious, and clever, and had us all clapping and laughing in moments.
And what she had to say was incredible. It was a community project of sorts, but one unlike any we’d heard of before. Their idea was simple but life-changing. What they had done, in her home town, was plant food, without asking for permission from any council, in every spare space going. They’d uprooted prickly bushes around the doctor’s surgery, dug up bits of the cemetery and the town square, and got half the community- including the police force and the firemen- joining in. Local farmers began to produce more varied products, home owners got veggie beds and chickens and pigs. The schools planted orchards and got beehives. The entire town changed drastically because of a few women’s idea hatched around the kitchen table.
They’d re-defined ‘community’ and got it to work. And their idea is spreading across the world. Towns in the US, New Zealand and Europe are already recreating Pam’s plan and changing lives and economies.
I’ve found a version of Pam’s incredible speech at TED talks. She’s amazing enough to have got a standing ovation from a room of tired teenagers. She’ll inspire you to make a difference, too.
~ this whole wide world