Elegies and eulogies

In the previous post I mentioned Toastmasters. This is a public speaking non-profit association I joined in December 2007. Its mission is mainly to provide a mutually supportive environment in which members can grow their communication and leadership skills. It sounds great, and it is indeed.

I say it is great because of the comprehensive program it follows, the amount of manuals it has to polish different skills, the variety of the assignments you have to complete, the details within a meeting that help you polish your public speaking… and also because of the amount of things you learn.

My club, Toastmasters Madrid, meets twice a month, but yesterday I was attending other club’s meeting, Excelencia Toastmasters. I especially liked one of the speeches. It was about elegies (a mournful poem, a lament for the dead). You may think it’s a sad topic to talk about. I saw it as a very useful one. We may not have to give elegies many times in our lives, we certainly wouldn’t like so. However, the times we will be faced with it, we better be well equipped.

Some quick tips the speaker gave:

  • Intro: Tell some story that happened to both the deceased and you together, or how you met each other. Even something moderately funny might be good (explanation behind was the possitive biological stimulus that some smile, small laugh can give to a crowd under stress or even crying).
  • The body: Anything could work, try to avoid generalizations.
  • Conclusion: Talk directly to the deceased. Tell her something you wanted to have told her in live but failed to do so.  You may also read a poem.
  • Plan B: under the stress of that day, anything can happen. Plan ahead. Practice it more than ever: by practising it you will have lived it beforehand and probably will have released those emotional moments in the safe of your place instead of in front of the audience.  Have your script in written at hand, in case you cannot continue by heart you may still read it. Have some water nearby. Have a back up person with instructions of what to do in case you become blocked.

To finish his speech, the speaker recommended the eulogy B. Obama gave in Ted Kennedy’s funeral.  His evaluator read out:

Recuerde el alma dormida,
avive el seso y despierte
cómo se pasa la vida,
cómo se viene la muerte
tan callando;
cuán presto se va el placer,
cómo después de acordado
da dolor,
cómo a nuestro parescer,
cualquiera tiempo pasado
fué mejor.
Y pues cemos lo presente
cómo en un punto es ido
y acabado
si juzgamos sabiamente,
daremos lo no venido
por pasado.
No se engañe nadie, no,
pensando que ha de durar
lo que espera
má que duró lo que vió,
porque todo ha de pasar
por tal manera.
Nuestras vidas son los ríos
que van a dar en la mar,
que es el morir;
allí van los señoríos
derechos á se acabar
y consumir;
allí los ríos caudales,
allí los otros medianos
y más chicos;
allegados, son iguales
los que viven por sus manos
y los ricos.

                                                 Jorge Manrique


Filed under Toastmasters

3 responses to “Elegies and eulogies

  1. I find quite surprising that you heard an Elegy in Excelencia. That kind of speeches are not that common in Spain, not even once-in-a-life as you propose… :S

    But if we are ever requested to prepare one, we’ll come back here, for sure.

  2. Take a look at this:


    Know that now you’re writing about other things but this just came up yesterday while I was searching for podcasts. It’s interesting…

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